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Where to eat downtown Chattanooga..local style?

I am going to Chattanooga in August with family. We are staying downtown near the river and would like to eat at some good places. Any suggestions. We are food lovers and like local and eclectic and not touristy or chain food! THANKS!!

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  1. The Mount Vernon Restaurant, about a mile south of down town on the main road down to Lookout Mountain.
    It's an institution (in a good way) and has good food (I've eaten there every five years or so since 1975). I early on discovered their sweet celery salad dressing and have shared that discovery with many friends.

    4 Replies
    1. re: shallots

      Mt. Vernon is gross. The food is frozen and basic. Years ago it was the only non-fastfood "upscale" restaurant in Chattanooga, and it's currently only popular with an aging demographic that also vacations in Pigeon Forge & Branson, Missouri.

      Best restaurants in town are easily St. John's & The Meeting Place. St. John's is the more expensive (and formal) of the two. Fantastic food (much of it local), great service, great ambiance. Easy Bistro downtown across from the aquarium between Mellow Mushroom & Ben & Jerry's is a close third.

      Cheaper more relaxed fare can be found at Mojo Burrito & Lupis. If you take the electric shuttle to the Choo Choo, walk a block around the corner either way on Main Street, you can find great Sushi from Hiroshi's, or excellent breakfast from Bluegrass Grill (again, fresh local food). A half block past Bluegrass Grill is Niedlovs, a bakery that serves great sandwiches, but it's their bread that will change your life.

      1. re: josiahq

        thanks!! that was the response I wanted. If you ever travel to Charleston I'll tell you where to eat.

        1. re: josiahq

          Is Hiroshi's still there? It appears as closed on ylp. What is your opinion of Boathouse Rotisserie and Raw Bar?

          1. re: gki

            Sadly Hiroshi's is closed and there was much nashing of teeth and wailing in the food universe :( (Please come back Hiroshi...PLEASE!!!!)

            Mt Vernon was once a very decent place, and sometimes I dunno I still like it for the memories....but...yeah....not really up very high on the list anymore. Mr Irvine should make this his next stop. I think it COULD be saved.....but doubting it.

      2. I agree with Mount Vernon, and you may also want to check out The Blue Plate (close to where you're staying), Southern Star (Get there by 11:30 or you'll wait a very long time for a table), Main & Mocha for a light lunch, or Hiroshi's if you like Japanese Food. Chattanooga is full of great locally-owned restaurants!

        2 Replies
        1. re: jenniferGA

          Thanks for the input!!! Any suggestions for dinner?? Mount Vernon the best? Years ago we ate at the Loft. Is it stil there and good?

          1. re: charlestonrealtor

            The Loft closed several years ago. Mt. Vernon is just Waffle House with tablecloths.

        2. For a wide range of food at any meal time try the 24 hour City Cafe - located at the Days Inn downtown. Bring your appetite and save room for the cakes shown as you walk in - you won't believe it. Steady crowd day or night, not much atmosphere, but good food at a reasonable price.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Grey00

            I second the City Cafe. While a diner attached to a downscale Days Inn doesn't sound like a great dining choice, the food here is really, really good. We especially like the Greek items on the menu -- the spanakopita is outstanding. Haven't tried the cakes but they're fantastic creations to ogle as they rotate in the display case.

          2. I added this to the Chattarati blog and a couple of suggestions were added...some of the same folks came here to comment. http://chattarati.com/2008/07/03/brea...

            fyi: Mt.Vernon is better than suggested.

            1. We've linked to this from Chattarati.com and some additional suggestions came up...some from the same people.http://chattarati.com/2008/07/03/brea...

              1 Reply
              1. re: mkelley

                thanks for the link...very interesting, besides the Chili's and Olive Garden rec.

              2. How about a Chattanooga 'classic lunch': a cold RC and a moon pie?

                1 Reply
                1. re: shallots

                  Ya know that is OLD SCHOOL....I'll give ya that. Maybe a Grilled cheese from Zayre's while we're at it.

                2. Mount Vernon is nothing but heated up (usually) institutional food service fare. I would not go there again, nor ever recommend it.
                  For my money 212 Market is the best in town, they are the first green restaurant in the state of Tennessee and source as much as possible of their food locally. They are family owned and located near the Aquarium, they had the foresight to open there before the Aquarium was finished. They have been given the Award of Excellence by Wine Spectator for at least the last five years.
                  Across the river in North Chattanooga on Frasier Ave. is Terra Nostra, owned by a couple who live locally although they are both from Ecuador. Tapas style fare with both a set menu and daily specials.
                  Hiroshi's on Main is the benchmark for sushi in Chattanooga, and just down the street is Taco Rico which sounds Mexican but is actually Salvadorian. Their papusas are killer and the chicken tamale in a banana leaf is one of the best I've ever had.

                  1. I have to agree with TNbear.....212 is the best for inventiveness and quality.

                    1. Second Hiroshi's for sushi.

                      If you're tired of sit down try Lupi's pizza on Broad Street. Custom made pizza and good beer selection.

                      Tony's Pasta Shop serve decent Italian and has a nice selection of Italian wines you can try by the glass. But it's not for everybody. And Big River Grille is a reasonable brew-pub choice in the area.

                      Will have to give Taco Rico a try when we're back in the fall.

                      1. Hinnen's (193 Chestnut St) just down from the Aquarium is the best in town for steaks. Local owner, great steaks/meat and good atmosphere.
                        St John's (1278 Market St) is a don't miss (the chef/owner trained at Commander's Palace) and most of the food is grown locally by speciality farms.
                        212 is highly recommended, but I have not been. Big River Grille is a good brew/pub and has grown to Jacksonville/St Augustine area of Florida (under different name).
                        Mt Vernon has not been a good place to eat in over 40 years.

                        1. I had the most delicious Paella at the restaurant below. It's a seafood restaurant and it was packed for dinner with a long wait for a table.

                          Blue Water Grille
                          224 Broad St
                          Chattanooga, TN 37402
                          (423) 266-4200

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: sonya123

                            I'm fortunate enought to be enjoying a couple nice meals in Chattanooga soon.Breakfast and lunch/early supper.

                            Not interested in fancy places at all.Heard there's been a downhill slide at Bea's?How are these choices?

                            Aretha Frankensteins
                            (423) 265-7685
                            518 Tremont St
                            Chattanooga, TN 37405

                            Memo's Grill
                            430 E Martin Luther King Blvd
                            Chattanooga, TN 37403

                            Petunia's Silver Jalapeno
                            309 Signal Mountain Rd
                            Chattanooga, TN 37405
                            Phone: 423-785-7578

                            1627 Rossville Ave., Chattanooga, TN

                            800 Chestnut St
                            Chattanooga, TN 37402
                            (423) 266-7687

                            Does Innside have a horseshoe shaped counter? If so then I'm completely sold.Any other old/early 20th century places I'm missing out on?Prefer to stay in the downtown area but can branch out at the drop of a hat for good chow.

                            1. re: scrumptiouschef

                              Aretha Frankenstein's is worth a visit. Great food, creative yet classic breakfast, good coffee, and Guinness on tap. Bring your appetite, the portions are HUGE. I live about 40 minutes away, and when family comes to visit we like to take them to Aretha's. If you like The Flying Biscuit in Atlanta, Aretha's is similar in atmosphere, quality and menu.

                          2. I joined my husband on a business trip to Chattanooga. We have eaten at Aretha Frankenstein's and St. John's Meeting Place so far. Aretha Frankenstein's was good, but was not worth the hour long wait for food. The pancakes were huge, but the omelet and potatoes were nothing special. The biscuit was also rock solid as some other reviewers have stated.

                            St. John's Meeting Place was delicious. We were more than satisfied with every single dish we ordered. Our waitress recommended the beef cheeks and duck confit and both lived up to the hype. The creme brulee was rich and creamy. Everything a creme brulee should be.

                            St. John's Restaurant
                            1274 Market St., Chattanooga, TN 37402

                            Aretha Frankensteins
                            518 Tremont St, Chattanooga, TN 37405

                            Meeting Place
                            340 N Main St, Jamestown, KY 42629

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: lilchynaqt

                              St. John's is definitely a good choice. If they still have veal hanger steak on the menu, get that--delicious. I would skip the venison, which I didn't enjoy much at all.

                              St. John's Restaurant
                              1274 Market St., Chattanooga, TN 37402

                            2. Some great restaurants in Chattanooga are:
                              1.River City Deli- A truely great deli, but dont argue with the owner, you will eat the food the way he fixes it! But trust me, it is delicious!
                              2. Choo Choo Barbecue- Smoked barbecue, Homemade BBQ sauce, YUM!
                              3. Lili Mae's Place- It is right outside of downtown Chattanooga, in Red Bank. This is a local favorite. I reccomend going on Tuesdays or Thursdays to get their Fried Chicken Special. Best in Chattanooga!
                              4. Steve's Landing- Near Soddy Daisy, next to the marina. They have the most AMAZING ribs in Tennessee, plus everything else there is delicious, plus it's not to bad on the wallet. The most expensive thing is a rack of ribs for $17.99. It is my favorite!
                              Hope you find these helpful!


                              Choo Choo Barbecue
                              3951 Ringgold Rd, Chattanooga, TN 37412

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: bang4urbuck

                                Steve's landing is a good call, really friendly atmosphere and boat docks kick up my ratings there....esp during the summer.

                                Owner of River City Deli is kinda like a southern Soup Nazi.....but d*mn he can make some good food.

                                Choo Choo BBQ (high five) but SHHHH

                                and thanks for heads up on Lili's on my next to visit list!

                              2. Based on this thread my traveling Chowspouse chose 212 Market for dinner tonight. Here is her email to me:
                                Hi - 212 Market in downtown Chattanooga is fabulous! You have scored again.

                                My dinner: Grey Goose martini (which i had asked for up and very, very cold) was poured at the table to keep it cold! Love that.

                                I had a cup of the seafood bisque - a signature soup for them -heavenly.

                                Spinach Stuffed Tennessee Trout
                                Polenta, local squash, mushrooms and red pepper coulis 20
                                Frog’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc, Napa 2005 24 ½ bottle

                                and the "sampler" dessert: small slice of double choc torte w/raspberry sauce, tiny creme brulee, and small slice of their cheese cake with chocolate sauce.

                                Service was so warm and wonderful. We had a great conversation with our server, Stephani, about eating local, seasonal, humanely raised, etc. She was obviously a foodie. Nice.

                                Please give them a positive word on Chow - there could have been more diners for a Wed evening!
                                Thanks Hounds (and 212 Market!) for once again making me look good

                                212 Market Restaurant
                                212 Market St, Chattanooga, TN 37402

                                1. If you like sushi try Sekisui (www.sekisuiusa.com) on market street. Upscale place with indoor waterfalls yet most of the rolls were around 6 bucks and they had an extensive happy hour.

                                  2130 W Poplar Ave, Collierville, TN 38017

                                  1. Town and Country was the Best. Its now a Walgreens.
                                    Leonards had the coldest beer in town and made a fried bloney sammige that would make a poodle slap a pit bull. Its boarded up.
                                    Bea's was a great lazy susan meat and three that kept the mashed taters and okry commin. Its closed.
                                    M&J Supermarket had great meats.
                                    Remember the Tiki Hut?

                                    Town and Country Cafe
                                    201 E 1st St, Campbellsville, KY 42718

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: conOsewer

                                      I have no clue where conOsewer got that Bea's is closed....it's definitely not. Bea's has good chicken, but sitting at a large table with strangers isn't my style....especially some of the clientele there. Champy's now has Chattanooga's best fried chicken, catfish, tamales, and ice cold 40oz beers.

                                      1. re: TreyCo

                                        I second TreyCo regarding Champy's. I do not care for Bea's at all, the one time I ate there the chicken pieces were miniscule and not all the good.

                                        1. re: TreyCo

                                          Champy's is awesome Chicken, but try Lamar's...

                                          1. re: TreyCo

                                            Champy's is the best fried chicken I've ever had.
                                            They also do crawfish boils in season and it's great. Mrs. Sippi says it's the best she's had.

                                            Love the place.


                                        2. ENTP post incoming J's and grammar nazi's might want to skin out the back.

                                          You can not go wrong in general with the City Café, it is in the bottom of the Day's Inn downtown, don't let the hotel location fool you this place is excellent the owners were also responsible for the original one in Atlanta that was sort of a Atlanta mecca for late night foodies, as they are open 24 hours a day. Huge portions, and the most insanely large menu's you have ever seen (it makes nice bedtime reading too), every style of food is here, and done well. The hardest part is deciding on what to try. It's ALL good, they also have a Hamilton Place location (diff Hotel. Also save a spot for Cake as their cake slice is enough for 2-4 people (wife and I split one slice twice.) The cakes are made by a bakery in Athens and incredible as well. Many people overlook this, I'll take City Café over 212 Market most days, though 212 Market does have excellent fresh local produce, if you're value minded it's just not my top 4-5 choices downtown, it gets thrown out a lot as a great place, but honestly every large city in North America seems to have a 212, but in general it will not disappoint most, and if you want upscale fancy and inventive it and St Johns are among my favorite snooty. places.

                                          Another great place that gets overlooked is the Acropolis at Hamilton Place. Excellent food, excellent bakery items. Every city has a Greek restaurant but I love ours the best, and run by a great family. Literally I think almost everyone is related there and the best people on earth. My favorite items there is their Pan-seared Grouper in Caper lemon sauce, an also their Moussaka.. As with City Café they have excellent bakery items, and cakes slices are delicious, just not quite as King Kong size as City Café, but when we order a B-day cake we go HERE.

                                          What has impressed many friends who travel more is to find we have one of the best if not the best Thai Restaurants on the eastern seaboard for AUTHENTIC Thai food. I'm not kidding, and yes I have been to Cali, and Asia. Sawasdee is located at the very base of Lookout Mtn, and outside of going to the west Coast there's not many more truly authentic Thai restaurants you will find. You need to be a hardcore Thai fan though as this is very much real Thai food, we have two other Thai restaurants in town a little more upscale atmosphere, and more westernized Thai menus...for those less adventurous. Sawasdee has the curry that will make your Thai friend holla! (note in another thread a Chinese foodie did not agree, I respect his opinion, but wonder if he was there on a bad day, or just prefers Chinese to Thai, my friends from Thailand love this place)

                                          Fried Chicken is something taken as a matter of personal pride in this area, and the best is probably made in home kitchens, but there are three excellent places you can get your southern fried chicken on. My favorite is Lamar's also in downtown area near UTC, it's also serving tell like 2am or later...this is a bar/restaurant, the bar has black and gold velvet wallpaper and a jukebox filled with 60's R&B the drinks here are STRONG and two might lay you out. This place is stuck in time in the good way. A great hole in the wall and my favorite late night chicken binge, it might not be younger kid family friendly depending on time of day. Next up would be Champy's not far away, and excellent spicey style fried Chicken....they serve Chicken and 40's....I don't go for the 40 but their chicken is excellent. My wife's favorite, and I can't argue...this place is a Chicken paradise...just not as classic original as Lamar's. (let me say one more time if you like secret gold mines Lamar's is the bees knees!)

                                          Beas is the most family friendly of the chicken joints, and you sit at a table with a lazy susan and may have other people sit with you at the table. If your cardiologist approves of you having greasy southern goodness it's a great stop. It is sort of a grease pit, but in the south that is good sometimes, but we don't all actually eat this way all the time, and make to age mid life anyway. it's a good family spot though! If Larry the cable guy was to make a choice for favorite this might be it, and that's not a bad recommendation, it's just not for everyone.

                                          For the best home country style vegetables, and a bit more healthy I highly highly recommend the Country Side Café in Ooltewah it's a bit of a drive, but really excellent meat and three. One of the best I have found anywhere!

                                          If your downtown looking for veggies I also would recommend the Tupelo Honey Café in downtown this is the same one made famous in Ashville so not purely local, but I am always extremely impressed with the quality and service, it's also a bit more chic for those who don't love hole in the walls like I do....it's also extremely popular expect to wait. They have great breakfast too....really all I need is their veggies.....this place is veggie paradise. If you live the life of a good honest pious god fearing tomato, or carrot you may end up here. (Unless your a Baptist tomato or carrot, and then you will go to Country Side Café...both are great Veggie Heavens....it's more denominational thang. )

                                          If you are not adverse to buffets, we have the only Asian buffet I am still willing to eat at, (most equal gross) and it's really to me one of the best bangs for the foodie buck in town. It's called Forbidden City and at Hamilton place. it's the only buffet where I have found a sushi buffet that was actually worth eating, and always fresh and good. Sushi on a budget...NICE! Like most they have a little bit of everything and possibly the best Froglegs I have found outside of Louisiana. If they can't stock the froglegs fast enough, I may be there. The atmosphere is actually quite nice, with high quality dining area that reminded me of restaurants actually in China, very clean, and basically they have done everything right that most buffets get wrong. Quality food, CLEAN, good selection, and great service.(at a buffet? really? Yes!) Large family on a budget this place can't be beat. My son is a toddler and loves it!!!

                                          There's some other great dives in the larger area I will throw out but really only worth going to if you are going to be here longer as these are more like day drives in some cases and not close to Chattanooga Attractions. Let me just shoot em you can look them up: Canyon Grill (rising fawn near cloudland canyon, a bit more snooty, not cheap, food is delicious), Cookie Jar Café (on a farm at Dunlap, animals to see and pet too, reasonable prices their Meatloaf redefines what that dish should be), Larry's Trenton Ga...(Another southern veggie gold mine, a buffet, but don't let buffet fool you it's all homestyle, pan fried okra not that battered chain crap, great ribs too, and even fried green tomatoes...on a buffet....homestyle.. why are you not there yet?), Also Randys (Trenton is a good hole in the wall with possible the biggest hamburger in America...if you order their largest size you need to call 24 in advance as they make their own rolls and it is the size of the largest pizza you have seen in diameter and very thick, will feed like 2 families.)I haven't actually ever ordered it, the normal Gigantor selection is more then enough for me and wifey, they also do meat and three I think.

                                          Steve's landings is good food, and GREAT atmosphere at the boat docks in Soddy Daisy area....if your not from here use your GPS! My Sister and her kids seem to like this place. Good ribs and bbq, and I actually liked their Cajun pasta..overall I'd give em a 7 out of 10, but atmosphere and service may push it up to a 8.5 or more during summer...love sitting by the docks drinking a longneck with good food.

                                          My last comment is this, for attractions most go to Aquarium, Rock City, Ruby Falls etc. some of those are great, the Aquarium is nice, Rock City is 1950's era Stuckey nostalgia, and just gets better and better for kids! but I would like to shoot some that get overlooked that are to me the best of all. The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum does daily short trips or book in advance for one of their day long excursions, Also check ahead to see if it will be 630 their steam train, or their Deisels. On the daily you will see their shop where they rebuild trains too, there's no working trains at the Choo Choo....but you can find them here!!!! Lots of trains to see! This is a working railroad! Train lovers looking for the Chattanooga Choo Choo come here! (Food at Choo Choo downtown is crap anyway, they should let City Café take over the Choo Choo) Also I really think the Southern Belle riverboat is an excellent way to see the river and Lookout. Tour ticket is cheap and they serve beer (Yay!), a bit more to eat on it, great for kids. Go up to Lookout and drive out to Cloudland Canyon for some of the most breathtaking scenery, and if it's a nice day you may see many hang gliders launching at the facility halfway there.....the Canyon Grill is located this way as well. Always see Eagles there....great mtn views and day hikes. If it's cold when you get here and below freezing (and congrats on being here one of the 5 days a year this is the case) I recommend toughening it out and going there even more the two waterfalls at Cloudland Canyon create Crystal wonderlands on trail when it's cold......

                                          To be honest I could go on and on. I didn't even get into Beer connoisseur places that may be a future post we are littered with Beer mines of really well done suds...(Terminal, McHales, Brewhaus, etc) I didn't go there because I could spend as much time just talking about beer places. My tastes are a bit different then most, I am more about dives, and secret gold mines then stuffy type restaurants. I think my taste range between Anthony Bourdain's and Towmater's...so ya know...I appreciate snooty food and good endangered animal entrails with saffron truffle crème sauce, but I'm just more homestyle at heart. If you want more chic pretentious atmosphere and more general gourmet fair, yeah 212 is good, St John's is better yada yada... Every large city has those places. Most places Chattanooga's size do not..If you haven't been to big city gourmet dining much these places will thrill...so we are lucky to have them, I'm just not as blown away by that sort of restaurant, for me it's turning that corner walking into a little dive and finding a foodie hidden treasure, and where I am welcome in the Chattanooga official uniform (t-shirt cargo shorts, and sandels) Plus I like my suggestion to be indicative of the local area... If you want more international gourmet thought St Johns is awesome, and 212 Market is pretty close as well, have heard about The Meeting Place but have not been yet. I do not mean to offend the Chef's at these places, or their incredible international menus but I like to think I know where their cooks like to eat after work ;)

                                          Oh one last one I have been to Lambardi's in NYC, okay whateva....Lupis whips their butt, and has the best Pizza's on earth, made top to bottom with fresh local produce and I challenge ANY Pizza place in North America to compare, no predone sauce here! These hippies make the best pizza pie on earth... that is all... for now.

                                          1. Real quick for people who want to get their brew on... Might write something longer later.

                                            Brewhaus (not a brewery, but great beer selection, nice atmosphere and view...good place for beer tastings)
                                            Terminal Brewery overall my favorite Brewery/Restaurant in town

                                            McHales Irish Scottish Pub/brewery

                                            Some of my favorites....McHales has particularly surprised me, their master brewer is seriously talented.....the Scottish ale in particular blew me away when I found out it was local BTW, Acropolis also stocks their suds I think.

                                            Yes I know I didn't mention "your" brewery.....no it wasn't an accident.