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Friday, April 15, 2011

The King Tut's Experience - Knoxville,TN

As erie as this picture above looks, was only half as erie as I felt as I slowly drove into the gravel lot behind this tiny, rundown building on the "wrong" side of Knoxville. I was barely pressing the gas as I inched towards the back lot. I caught a glimpse of an Egpytian man to the right of me, huddled behind an abandoned building smoking a cigarette and starring at me with cryptic eyes. I put my car in park and locked the doors as I contemplated how quickly I could put my car in reverse if an Egyptian mummy suddenly arose and jumped on the hood of my car.

You always hear stories about King Tut's Egyptian restaurant in Knoxville. Everyone either raves about it or jokes on how sketchy it must be, but you rarely ever talk to someone who has actually GONE to this restaurant to experienced the stories first hand. So leave it to our friend Haden to decide to try out this mystic place for his birthday dinner. Party of 9 at King Tut's.

When the Party of 9 finally arrived to the restaurant - (late of course, but  still safe and intact... I may had to restrain myself from SPRINTING to them from the safety of my locked car) - we opened the dusty door of King Tut's... and the eerie atmosphere competely changed... what we saw in front of us was hard to discribe in words...

We stepped into a main dining area about half the size of my apartment living room. Considering the lack of space, the owners miraculously had crammed in tons of decorations. And these decorations where nothing short of INCREDIBLE in the most random meaning of the word. For example, on just one wall of the room, there was a giant buck head (which we later realized was plastic and sang when you pressed a button), swinging next to the buck head was a hanging Greek statue of a Greek Goddess in a cage, and sitting next to the Greek Goddess was good old Santa Claus - who appeared randomly throughout the entire room along with his friends frosty and roudolph.

Instead of wall paper or paint, the owners decided that covering every inch of the wall with bumper stickers and street signs was the best route to go. In fact as we were seated, we found it hard not to get lost into reading the "dry humor" bumper stickers that aligned the walls. Someof my favorites were, "Be nice to your kids, they will pick your nursing home," and  "Dog and wife missing... reward for the dog".

But the most interesting decorations of them all were the sparatically placed disco and party lights hanging from the cieling - as well as a karaoke machine in the corner, complete with small stage and microphone. The lights stayed on during our entire meal, even though it was still daylight outside. Those owners must like to party.

The owners (waitors, cooking, and cleaning staff) only consisted of a husband and wife from Cairo, Egypt. The wife was very friendly and had a family warmth about her - but was a bit shy and mainly stayed in the back kitchen and cooked. The husband, on the other hand, was nothing short of social and loved the attention our group of 9 gave him. He would come to our table every 5 minutes to see how we were doing.
As well as the friendly service, something to note about King Tut's is that you are allowed to bring your own beverages, this includes alcoholic beverages if you chose. It being Haden's birthday and all, the group thought it appropriate to celebrate in this fashion.

The BYOB style is all good and fun - but the real epicness of this has to be the glasses they provide you with. On our table, variety of glasses ranged from (all slightly clean) champagne glasses from the opening of the Knoxville Convention Center, snow man mugs, and giant vases. Yes... giant flower vases.

Now, it may have taken over an hour for our food to actually be served to us - but none of us seemed to notice. We were completely engaged by the atmosphere, as well as the owner. He would come to our table and preform magic tricks - At one point he came out with a balloon in his hand.

"If I make a needle go through this without popping" he said with a slight accent, "You buy 5 desserts."

After negotiating back and fourth, we finally decided on 3 desserts IF he was able to complete this challenge.

.... He did.

Right before our meal came, another challenge presented itself. Katie and I realized we had to use the bathroom. Being at the very end of our long, crowded table - the only thing to do was to hop over the back of my booth and walk around everyone.

However, Katie was on the other side - Pinned between the bumper sticker covered wall and the table.
After about a 2 second conversation... we knew what had to be done. Katie successfully "limbo'd" herself under her side of the table and crepted her way out the other side and over the booth. The owners said nothing, as if they see this sort of thing on a daily basis.

An hour since we had first arrived - our meal was finally served. Five giant plates of Egyptian meats and vegetables, pieda bread and dipping sauce, grape leaves filled with exotic spices and meats covered every inch of our tiny table. We tried EVERYTHING. The flavors were all equally delicious and surprisingly spicy. I remember biting into a piece of sausage that turned out to be the spicest thing on our table. My mouth burned for a good 10 minutes - but it was oh so worth it.

All in all - I would have to say King Tut's in a one of a kind experience every University of Tennessee student must experience before they graduate. But I will say this, don't go expecting quick service and food that may or may not meet regulation health code. However, if you bring a good group of people and an open mind - you will be welcomed into a restaurant where the service feels more like someone inviting you into their home. You will be entertained throughout the night. And you will go home completely satisfied.

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