It seems we find ourselves in TN again for another marathon (Well technically Fort Oglethorpe but staying in Chattanooga). Chow-Hound did us right by Nashville and wanted some recommendations for Chattanooga. It's been awhile since we went their (graduated Sewanee in 1995!) but we hear the town is on the move and we are excited to explore in November. Also, we are planning on staying downtown on the assumption that is where one can walk to bars, restaurants and such. If not, any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!
This thread hasn't been active in a quite a long while but I used it (in combination with http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5342...) so I thought I'd add my experiences.
First off, I think its important people know my viewpoint. I'm from California and live in Birmingham. Due to being from California and having Chinese family, I have a pretty high bar for Asian food. I also care little for ambiance, presentation, and even service (as long as I get the food, I'm ok). I also didn't stay that long, so my exposures were limited.
Overall, I'd say the restaurant options are quite good for a small city. I gather that Chattanooga's culinary scene has greatly improved as of lately. I do think that while I'm not in love with the culinary options, I do think it seems to have a food scene that oupaces its population size. I think that people would best stick to American food: high-end contemporary fresh bistro types, brew-pubs, etc... I'm guessing the BBQ and southern food might be decent as well, but going to those was prohibitive due to traveling companion tastes. Anyway, I think most of the suggestions on these threads rightly focus on these types of restaurants.
Our first stop was Sawasdee, due to the suggestion on this thread and that I'd previously been to Thai Smile, but found it to be mediocre. Sawasdee was below mediocre, IMO. We ordered a tofu green curry, a basil pork green bean dish, pad thai, and a sort of fried banana egg-roll thing. I will give that it avoided the over-sweetening that a lot of Thai restaurants do. However, I wished I' just gone to a Western food place. The pad thai was decent an basic. The rest lacked in flavor and quality seemed to be low. The desert was especially bad, complete with a strawberry goop that would have been able to compete being worse component of my free hotel breakfast. Nevertheless this place is still better than than the Thai place everyone raves about in Birmingham (Surin)
Thinking that Chattanooga was more of a fresh American kind of town, we bet well on 212 Market. I'd call this a quite good place. The dishes are creative and while I'm no big fan of smooth jazz, it was pleasant enough to have on a Sunday morning. I ordered a take on eggs benedict that had salmon and a cashew paste on the side. The butternut squash soup was quite good, more oniony and not as creamy as I've had elsewhere. I think butternut squash soups are generally good in high-end restaurants. We also ordered a creme brulee. I suppose its special that they made it wide and shallow so that the caramelized sugar on the top is extra wide, but it really just ends up adding too much sugar. The bloody Mary was bland and lacked any kick (neither tomatoey, nor spiced, nor spicy, but did have a decent amount of vodka). OVerall, as I said, I was really happy with this place.
We also happened by Terra Nostra and stopped in. This place is priced very high, despite being nothing special. Their bruschetta was like something I would make in college. The Moroccan crepe was quite good (Moroccan spiced dishes are usually quite flavorful and this was no different), although I could've done without the powdered sugar on top. There was a sort of balsamic grilled pepper and onion dish that was done well. The paella was basic. The sangria tasted pretty much like good fruit juice. To tell you the truth, I can't remember what else we got, despite being something like $8 or $10 a small plate. This is not because I'm being lazy, its a sign of a meal not worth remembering. This may be because I regret paying that much for what it turned out to be.
Hope this isn’t too late for you, but it likely is, but maybe will help someone else. I have been a closet reader on here for some time, but honestly I can't take anymore “bad advice”. Now I know everyone’s tastes are their own, and unique, but I can’t see advising people to go to either Chains, or wannabe chains, when most people are wanting to taste real local flavor on a trip, or if moving there just want really good sound places to eat. Or someone say recommending a Thai Resteraunt if they've only been to one in their life.
I have to say most tourists feel that Chattanooga is pretty much downtown, all the attractions are in that area after all and so they do choose to go to the “walk to” places around that area. Which honestly is NOT where Chattanoogans that have lived here for years would usually go. You'll miss the best places if you try and walk everywhere.
Downtown has very few real Gems, and the ones it does have are definitely on the more pricey side. Personally I’m a little more basic, I prefer either country style food, or authentic ethnic, I’m more a hole in the wall and dives kind of guy. That said If quail stuffed truffles, with a cold Icelandic Iguana topped salad is what you would choose on the menu. We have some really nice gourmet spots.
For those people Southside Grill, St. Johns, 212 Market, and for those wanting a real experience the Canyon Grill on Lookout Mountain will be fairly pleased. Personally though of those I really would only go to the Canyon Grill, or Southside….not to knock on St. John’s and 212 too much, as I haven’t had a bad meal at either….but when you been to one fairly well done, stuck up gourmet restaurant you been to most of them. Tasty, but for that kind of money I’d rather go to Hiroshi’s near the Choo Choo and get the Chef special where you basically just let him go to work and surprise you with a endless sushi adventure.
Yes Chattanooga does have Sushi, and really good Sushi at that. Most tourists will maybe find Sekisui, but it’s just a chain, their good, and heck I had a great first date with my wife there, but the real Sushi spot for Chattanooga is Hiroshi’s. Hiroshi can do your great classic Japanese sushi favorites, and is well trained, but what gives him the edge for local sushi is he is also as southern at heart as the rest of us, and I don’t just mean southern accent, he makes a lot of things with a unique twist that makes him “stand out” from every other Sushi restaurant you likely will go to. Also I highly recommend just getting the Chef Special…not sure what it costs now, at one point you could start at 50 dollars, but now I think it’s gone up as seafood prices have likely starts at 70 or up….basically there is a minimum but no maximum you tell him how much you are willing to spend, let him take over, and he just goes to town with favorites, whatever is new and freshest, or just a quirky idea he’s wanted to try…..it’s fun, and Hiroshi is as fun to talk to as he his food is tasty. If there is such a thing as Southern Style Sushi...then Hiroshi has invented it.
If traditional Sushi is your thing Sushi Nabi is located At Coolidge Park just across from one of the best running Carousels around. This place is just old school, down to slots for people to keep their personal chopsticks for when they come in. If someone is always complaining that it’s not like they had in Japan, THIS is where you take them. This is where the Japanese Komatsu employees will go….this is the real deal. Either here or Hiroshi’s will not disappoint, and they Blow Sekisui away.
One last mention would be for Mikado’s Sushi Bar, and Noodle House, it’s near I-75 across the interstate from the Hamilton Place shopping area, and close to Airport as well. Their Sushi is a great quality for a great value, but their noodles…..oh I live for their noodles. I especially recommend the Seafood Special soup which is actually a Jjampong soup, make sure to ask for it “Korean hot” if you want it traditional and not dumbed down spice wise….I live for this soup…oh it makes me happy.
Now for southern foods, get in a car and get away from downtown as quickly as possible, with only two real exceptions, and that is Zarzour’s and they keep a very narrow lunch time only weekday schedule. Their good and the place fits the perfect hole in the wall niche, it’s also the hangout of many a power broker from here, very affordable, and just done right. However given their hours, you’re not likely going to get a chance to eat here unless you plan a weekday around it. They’re good, but I think there’s others as good. Take a moment and read about the founder of Zarzour’s on their wall, his life would make a decent movie. I highly reccommend anyone here for baseball or the Lookouts stop by here...there's a connection I'll let youf ind it.
The other exception is Nicky’s which is across the bridge from downtown, and these are both also the two oldest restaurants still in operation as far as I am aware. Nicky is not a southern food so much as it is a trip back in time Dinner, with some great burgers, and the Best Shrimp I have had anywhere that was more then 1 mile from the Gulf. Their fried shrimp are colossal! The breading is delicate not heavy, and I swear if I could only have one fried shrimp again, including all my favorite food spots in Apalachicola Fla. Nicky’s would be my choice. If you go on a weekend expect to stand in line…Nicky’s is VERY popular among the natives.
The nearest place I recommend not down town but close would be Mt Vernon’s on the way to Lookout Mtn, it’s an old school southern restaurant, with a little refinery, basically this is where the local bluebloods have eaten forever and ever. The place has more silvered hair then red hat club, but for a really god reason. They really do everything well, at a very decent price, I won’t put them on the top of my southern food spots, but they tend to have something to please everyone, and this place is definitely been a local favorite for years. It’s also a good location if Lookout Mountain is your destination. I love their fish, whatever their having that day. Delicious soups as well.
My favorite restaurant around Lookout though is Sawasdee , a Thai eatery, we actually have been blessed with several great Thai places around town, but this is by far the most authentic , and some of the best Thai food I have had anywhere. (Definitely do not go to Thai Smile downtown, it’s not that good and this is only minutes away) Sawasdee is curry heaven, with several different kinds on and off the menu to choose from. I also dig teh painting on the wall by elephant artists.
Speaking of Thai food, I also recommend Sweet Basil which was my previous favorite Thai place locally it’s in Brainerd area, and is a white table cloth kinda place. Bit more toward the romantic, great place for dates, or something a little more upscale, but still affordable prices. If your close to the interstate "Rain" is not bad but feels like a “chain”, but will have stuff for non Thai fans as well. It has the best décor by far, and very artsy atmosphere, and you can sit on the floor with mats if you like. Rain would be a great Thai place if it wasn’t in a city that had Sawasdee and Sweet Basil, it’s just out gunned flavor wise. The slaves of the "Chic" will like Rain, it's slick, and well done.
Okay for the TRUE southern Flavor, get in your car and get ready to drive, Top on the list and not even anyone close, for the BEST country vegetables, and the ultimate Meat and Three there is only one real choice, and that’s the Countryside Café in Ooltewah, and I wouldn’t trade those Veggies for anything at St. John’s. If you're a good vegtable and say your prayers at night, and don't get eaten by rodents, and the Lord smiles upon you, you will wind up being served at the Countryside Cafe. This is the real deal southern food. The Country Side Café is where locals go who miss the southern food our grandmother made….it’s as good as it gets.
I have read so many reviews on here that mention “Bea’s Resteraunt” which is basically a pigout lazy susan place that has been here for years and years, and always been mass quantity but little quality food. It’s a glorified pigtrow. There is a long tradition at Beas, but I can't say it's a good one, unless you just want to go for teh dive nostalgia and bacteria I do not recommend. Do not believe the hype if someone recommends Bea’s immediately put their other recommendations near the bottom. Beas is nasty.
There are some Close alternatives though if Ooltewah is too far for you. Wally’s is close to the interstate and has been here forever whether you order off the menu or even get their buffet, they have some really good food, and for the money are the absolute hands down best bang for your buck for Southern food. If you have a large family and a budget this is the place. If I’m going to eat at a buffet this is the only one in town I trust, also note there are TWO "Wally's" the one I am talking about is off I-75 at the Eastridge area, there is also one downtown which I have heard good things about, but just not been to. Not sure if they have same owners or connection.
….the BEST buffet and worth the beautiful drive would be Larry’s in Trenton GA just south of here, where you actually can get old school green fried tomatoes, and pan fried okra (not that nasty breaded chain kind, just a note REAL southern cooking does not BREAD okra, it’s pan friend with crumbs, I blame Cracker Barrel for teaching people about bad okra.) They also have great ribs, and deviled eggs. It is a decent drive from here though in North GA, on the way to Alabama. This is a buffet with southern grandmother style food. It's a little pricier then most "buffet" type places but then the quality makes it worth it. I said PAN FRIED OKRA! at a buffet!
Randy’s nearby also in Trenton at the base of Sand Mountain is a stones throw from Larry's and has the most colossal burger you’ll ever see in this area, at 48 oz's two and three people cannot finish their biggest which as big a round as a pizza pie. If you want to get the biggest 48 oz burger....you must call a day in advance Randy's makes their own rolls (who else would?) and the largest burger takes a day of prep, or you could just get a few of their gigantic but smaller burgers and call it a day. Randy's also has good food and if I were to order off a menu they'd be a good spot, but being just down from Larry's I tend to only get Burgers at Randy's and dinner at Larrys if i am down that way.
I haven’t even covered so many of our best places, this is barely scratching the surface, Piza Pizza, and Lupis are two of the best Pizza restaurants ANYWHERE, I have been to New York, I’ve had Lombardi’s, and some of the other NYC Pizza meccas, but they all should wash Lupis car and pay them a dollar for the privilege….they both are better in my view then anything NYC has to offer Pizza wise. Lupis is as far as I am concerned the best Pizza on Earth Period, but Piza Piza is right on it’s heels. They use fresh ingredients in their pies, and local growers when they can. Lupis Pizza sauce should be federally protected as a national treasure.
Riverside catfish is the best spot for fingerlings! (if you don’t know what a fingerling is you are no Catfish foodie!) It's also a beautiful drive into the Tennessee River Valley Gorge, perfect for Aquarium visitors, or anyoen wanting to see the Raccoon Mountain facility. If your not a fingerling type, and like a filet they can do that for you too......ya wuss. Either way this is catfish heaven.
The Pastaria on Signal Mountain is a short nice drive from downtown Chattanooga, an is not only the best Italian restaurant in the area, many Italians have visited and said it’s the most authentic they’ve found in the states. I believe their also still BYO bottle of wine, which is a plus in my book. Unlike many of teh American Italian restaurants who seem to be trying to see how much heavy cheese and meat they can stuff in yoru arteries, Pasteria is light and more like what someone FROM Italy would be used to. Italian visiters for buisiness have given it high praise.
La Cabriole is the best European style (or sorry Jaque, French Canadian) place by far and honestly leaves the top snob restraints I mentioned in the dust, it’s run by a husband and wife next to their equestrian riding field, and jumps….it’s definitely BYO bottle and don’t dare to ask for tea or water or you’ll offend the owner, make sure you bring a second bottle at least to share with the owner as he will likely talk you up while you are there. This is reservation only and I think only open on Friday Saturday? You have usually a choice between entrees, and Jaque will decide the rest.
If you’re hungry and driving through you can’t go wrong with the City Café Diner, nothing unique but rock solid quality and portions enough to last you a week. Great deserts and open 24/7. They have aplace downtown I usually eat at their location in Ooltewah/Hamilton place area. Their sandwhiches are epic, do not fear about leaving hungry no matter what you choose. They have great sandwiches, burgers pastas, seafood, greek, if you have 3 freinds at 2am all wanting something different everyone can be satisfied here.
Every city has an Acroppolis too, but ours near Hamilton place is the best Greek restaurant I have been to, they also have the best pastries in town. For gourmet food they are the best bang for the buck in town. Next time I’ll speak more about them I DEARLY love the Acropolis food and their family, good people. This place is equal to any of the top gourmet restaurants in town in my opinion they have a staff of well trained chefs, a couple of dedicated pastry chefs, and if only for coffee and desert after a night out this place should NOT be missed, They do a great job at really affordable prices, and it's a family loved kind of place and that shows. I can't say enough about the quality you get for the price, they have prices that would compete with Olive Garden, but the food is nothing short of classically trained chef goodness. Also we’ll often get dinner somewhere and drive over here afterwards JUST for their deserts….THE BEST deserts in town. Period.
Oh and Lamar's has THE BESTSOUTHERN FRIED CHICKEN! and you can get it at 1-2 am while drinking the strongest drink you've had with black velvet wall paper and a jukebox that only has old school R&B. Warning take a cab, I have never seen anyone drink 3 drinks and walk...anywhere much less drive, and 1 drink will knock most people down. Lamar's fried chicken though is worthy of pilgrimage. Word of advise, do not comment on drinks being too strong...you may get kicked out. Lamar's is a bit more inner city, but the area really is not so bad these days as it once was. Still might not be a family place. This place is pure nostalgia and an underground secret even among most Chattanoogans. The owners also do some of the best Catering I have been lucky enough to enjoy.
I know I’m going to remember more places, and wish I would have added, but this is my start. I didn't even talk BBQ a subject dear to my heart, but I could write pages on that….and remember, if you just want to walk somewhere from your hotel that’s fine but a chain or chain wannabe is about all you’ll find, but if you really want to explore our best there is no more beautiful area to drive, hop in the car or cab and try some of the places I mentioned.
Friends don’t let Friends eat at food chains.
St. John's Restaurant
1274 Market St., Chattanooga, TN 37402
8223 Mahan Gap Rd, Ooltewah, TN 37363
212 Market Restaurant
212 Market St, Chattanooga, TN 37402
1341 Burgess Rd, Chattanooga, TN 37419
Mt Vernon Restaurant
3535 Broad St, Chattanooga, TN 37409
114 W Main St, Chattanooga, TN 37408
re: Hillbilly Foodie
Wally’s est. 1937
Nikki's Drive Inn est 192?
(someone needs to get Nikki’s a website
Zarzours est 1918
(they need a website too
Hiroshi’s on the southside.
(needs a web page
1341 Burgess Rd, Chattanooga, TN 37419
Nikki's Drive Inn
899 Cherokee Blvd, Chattanooga, TN 37405
re: Hillbilly Foodie
Sadly I just found out Pisa Pizza closed this previous year (;_;)
I will miss your pizza pies........
Thankfully Lupis stands at 3 locations....but I'm hoping the Pisa owner will make a come back....competition makes for better Pizza pies for all!
551 River St, Chattanooga, TN 37405
re: Hillbilly Foodie
Your absolutely right inside cafe is a great breakfast and an awsome burger. I went there the other day on a sat only to find them closed, I have always associated them with work as lots of places get take out orders there. I wish they were open on weekend. There's a few others I need to add. As for best southern breakfast would need to eat there and Wallys back to back to decide.
re: Hillbilly Foodie
re: Hillbilly Foodie
I know that it has been a while since you posted but may I ask what you think of Hennen's downtown. I agree with your reviews above ( I have been to 90%). Also, Abuelo's Mexican (Hamilton Place) has some great carnitas tacos on the bar menu (lots of cilantro) and a pork loin dish which is also fantastic.Some of the best Mexican food I have had in Chattanooga. Have you been?
193 Chestnut St, Chattanooga, TN 37402
re: Hillbilly Foodie
Porter's Steakhouse in the Read House Hotel is outstanding fine dining for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Porter's Steakhouse @ The Read House Hotel @ 827 Broad Street, Chattanooga, TN 423 - 643 - 1240.
827 Broad St, Chattanooga, TN 37402
Where are you staying. Downtown is pretty big. St. John's Restaurant is outstanding fine dining for dinner only on Market Street 5/6 blocks from the Read House Hotel. City Cafe Diner on Carter St. a few blocks from Read House Hotel has outstanding country food for breakfast and lunch. 212 Market is outstanding fine dining for lunch or dinner on Market St. T Bone's on Chestnut is the best bar in Chattanooga for lunch or dinner. Terminal Brew House on 14th St. downtown is fun for lunch or dinner. Blue Grass Grill on E Main St. has outstanding breakfast. Big River Grill and Brewing Co. is 7/8 blocks N of Read House and has outstanding bar food and cold drinks. Easy Bistro is excellent fine dining for dinner on Broad St. N of Read House. Market St. Tavern is a lively joint two blocks E of the Read House with good bar food and cold drinks. Pickle Barrel is another lively joint a few blocks from the Read House.
St. John's Restaurant @ 1278 Market St., Chattanooga, TN 423 - 266 - 4571.
City Cafe Diner @ 901 Carter Street, Chattanooga, TN 423 - 634 - 9191.
212 Market @ 212 Market St., Chattanooga, TN 423 - 265 - 1212.
T Bone's @ 1419 Chestnut St., Chattanooga, TN 423 - 266 - 4240.
Terminal Brew House @ 6 E 14th Street, Chattanooga, TN 423 - 752 - 8090.
Bluegrass Grill @ 55 East Main Street, Chattanooga, TN 423 - 752 - 4020.
Big River Grill and Brewing Co. @ 222 Broad Street, Chattanooga, TN 423 - 267 - 2739.
Easy Bistro @ 203 Broad St., Chattanooga, TN 423 - 266 - 1121.
Market St. Tavern @ 850 Market Street, Chattanooga, TN 423 - 634 - 0260.
Pickle Barrel @ 1012 Market Street, Chattanooga, TN 423 - 266 - 1103.
The food is outstanding. Breakfast is as good as you will ever have. Service can be excellent or terrible. If you go be prepared to wait an hour or more. You may not have to wait. Parking can be a problem also. IMO a very fine breakfast restaurant should have preserves or jelly available in the jar and not plastic wrappers but not many do. The best breakfast is at Blackberry Farm in Walland, TN.
Go to Country Place.
Country Place Restaurant @ 7320 Shallowford Road, Chattanooga, TN 423 - 855 - 1392.
Country Place Restaurant
7320 Shallowford Rd, Chattanooga, TN 37421
Decolady......I edited my post. Zarzour's is open for lunch only but it's outstanding. They have been serving southern comfort country food in the same location a long long time.;
I would try AF's on a weekday and not around any holidays. The food is outstanding. You won't get a better breakfast than AF's. It's just a problem when a crowd shows up. The kitchen gets overrun and the waiters can't keep up with orders. It's worth a try. Here's a link that will arouse your appetit.
Well, perhaps it will be our lucky day. Will definitely be there on a weekday. My daughter has been wanting to go, so I think we will try it and see how it goes.
Thanks for the links! I have added Country Place to our "to try" list.
Country Place Restaurant
7320 Shallowford Rd, Chattanooga, TN 37421
We really enjoyed The Terminal Brewhouse for a casual meal. The bison burger was really good and we sampled all of the beer they brew there, definitely some good ones. For a nicer dinner, we went to trendy Alleia for some great upscale apps, pizza, and pasta. And for breakfast, we liked Bluegrass Grille. Clumpies for ice cream.