Looking for someplace new to grab a bite in Chattanooga? From a gluten-free cafe-bakery to made-from-scratch gelato, creative donut artistry, and a top-tier steakhouse, Chattanooga is brimming with fresh and unique places well worth checking out. Here are a few.
By Andrew Shaughnessy
Full PDF here.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House | East Brainerd
For a great steak and a fine dining experience, go for the refinement, hospitality, and quality cuts of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, opened this July by franchise owners Nancy and Mark Oswald. Located in the lobby of the Embassy Suites Hotel on Shallowford Road and I-75, Ruth’s Chris prides itself on its service and exquisite cuisine. While the excellent cuts of USDA Prime steak are the obvious and most popular choice, the upscale establishment also offers Maine lobster, seafood dishes, starters, soups and salads, locally sourced produce, and an award-winning wine list.
Enzo’s Market was opened on Long Street in Southside Chattanooga by owners Sam Turner, Gavin Thomas, and Eric Cummings as an “Old World”-inspired grocery and deli. Enzo’s selections and services are fairly impressive, and buzzwords like “organic,” “local,” and “artisan” definitely apply. Working from a “fresh and local” concept, the café offers breakfast, coffee, sandwiches, draft beer, pizza, and grab-and-go soups, salads, and sandwiches from the deli. Popular menu items include the Salsiccia Pizza, packed with housemade sausage and carmelized onions, and the double-stacked Main Street Burger.
Milk and Honey | NorthShore
Milk and Honey’s famous gelato is made from scratch with fresh ingredients, local honey, and milk pasteurized in house. “It’s always changing here, so it’s pretty fun,” says Taylor Monen, who opened the NorthShore shop in March with her husband, Mike. A weekly contest is held on Facebook to suggest new flavors, and Monen is creating new ones every week, rotating 18 flavors at any given time from a growing stash of hundreds of recipes. Pistachio and the signature “Milk and Honey” gelato are favorites. Fresh fruit Brazilian popsicles, sourced coffee from Atlanta’s Counter Culture Coffee, homemade sea-salt caramels, and great hours (6:30 a.m.-10 p.m.) make it a good bet to stop in for a bite at any time of day.
NorthShore Lunch | NorthShore
NorthShore Lunch opened on Frazier Avenue on June 4. The deli offers sandwiches, plate lunches, and homemade soup. “It’s a very laid back atmosphere,” says owner Leasha Price. “We like to get to know the customers.” Specials and new dishes regularly migrate through the frequently updated menu, but it’s the Reuben and the Club Sandwich—staples and solid marks by which to measure a deli’s quality—which have proven the most popular. “People are in awe of the size of the Club,” says Price. “In two months, maybe 3 people have actually been able to finish it.”
“From our farmers, to our chefs, to your plate….It’s Elemental.” This is the motto of Northshore’s newest restaurant. Opened in February, Elemental Food and Drink provides Chattanoogans a palate-pleasing, nutritious, and sustainable dining experience. Guests enjoy a hip, industrial-modern atmosphere and diverse menus with options appealing to everyone from vegans to meat lovers. If you enjoy fresh, local cuisine that rotates in accordance to the seasons Elemental is a must.
A new branch of Tasty Daylight Donuts opened last November on the corner of MLK and Chestnut to serve up delicious donuts and coffee to the downtown area. Donuts are cooked fresh daily, with a minimum of 50 different varieties available every day. Pinecones (think bloomin’ cinnamon rolls), fried pies, and apple fritters are favorites. “People will drive from Atlanta for our apple fritters,” says owner Tony McInnis.
For Neapolitan pizza and a good craft beer, look no further than Community Pie on Market Street. Opened in mid-January, the restaurant began as the ambitious dream of Chattanooga restaurateur Mike Monen. Real Neapolitan pizza follows strict rules for preparation. All ingredients are imported from the Peninsula, and all pizzas are fired in a 100% wood-fired brick oven. The pizza pairs well with a selection of 40 beers on tap and made-from-scratch Milk and Honey gelato.
Opened September 2012 on Market Street, Noodles & Company dishes up just what you might expect in a “fast/casual” atmosphere. Patrons can choose between a variety of customizable Asian, Mediterranean, and American noodle dishes, readily complemented by salads, sandwiches, beer, and wine. According to owner Megan Bozeman, fresh, local ingredients are a source of pride. “We don’t have a fryer, a microwave, or a can opener in the restaurant,” she says.
As of August 7, the old Farrow’s Service Station at the corner of Vine and Georgia Avenues in downtown Chattanooga is home to Universal Joint Bar & Restaurant, owned by Sean Corley, Tracy Crowley, Marc Brennan, and Gordon Ricker. The building, strategically bordering UTC, downtown, retains some of its character as a converted gas station and garage, with an added bar, outdoor patio, and communal table set to serve up their ever popular burgers, snacks, and wings. Step through the garage doors, enjoy a cold beer on the patio, and just relax.
Chattanooga’s first food truck operation is still running, rolling, growing, and shoveling out more burgers from more locations. With one wheel-less burger shop already established on Warehouse Row, owner Christian Siler opened a new Southern Burger Co. location on Bradmore Lane in Ooltewah. The classic signature Southern Burger is the most popular item on the menu, but topping your burger with habañero jam and goat cheese or going for the veggie burger with an eggplant-cheddar pattie can sure keep life interesting.
Lupi’s | Ooltewah
Chattanooga’s funky and relaxed purveyor of delicious calzones and pizza now has a location in Ooltewah. Lupi’s owner Dorris Shober operates from a “hometown homemade” concept—everything from scratch, nothing frozen. The majority of the ingredients—from the ground sausage and beef to the vegetables and cheese—are locally grown or sourced from within 100 miles of Chattanooga. In a particular claim to fame, Lupi’s makes its own fresh mozzarella in house. Lupi’s sticks to what they know: pizza, calzones, and lasagna, and they do it well.
A new and delicious addition to Rock City Gardens, Café 7, was opened by Rock City CEO Bill Chapin. The casual, fine dining establishment serves Southern food with a modern twist in its bracing mountain atmosphere. While the fried green tomato BLT has proven particularly popular with customers, what really sets Café 7 apart is its view. The entire dining area is set out on the mountain bluff right by “Lover’s Leap”—a breathtaking view of the horizon to soak in as you enjoy your shrimp and grits.
When owners Greg Beairsto and Jeff Brakebill opened the doors of Sofa King in March, they stepped into a public “to do” as the play on words in the restaurant’s name reached national news. Fortunately, their debut was also greeted by an overwhelmingly popular reception by burger-hungry patrons. “It’s fresh, clean, bright, and funky,” says Beairsto. Bedecked with mid-20th century advertising, sofas, and cartoon cows, the Red Bank burger joint offers burgers (including a popular peanut butter bacon burger) made from locally sourced grass-fed beef, liquid nitrogen milkshakes, and dollar beer. “We just try to do what we do really well,” Beairsto says.
Santa Fe Cattle Co. | Cleveland
A new location of the Santa Fe Cattle Company, owned and corporately based from Baton Rouge, La., opened on August 12 at Bradley Square Mall in Cleveland. The steakhouse menu offers a wide variety of choices from daily hand-cut steaks, to burgers and sliders, ribs, and Southwest dishes. “It’s very down to earth, down home country,” says general manager Kevin Hopkins. Americana regalia and neon signs deck the walls side by side with gear from local high schools and colleges. Stop in for a warm welcome and a bucket of shell peanuts.
1885 | St. Elmo Situated in the heart of St. Elmo at the foot of Lookout Mountain, 1885 is a “southern coastal restaurant” that serves up fresh seafood as well as a variety of steaks and grilled items. Opened in June by St. Elmo resident Miguel Morales and managing partner Miguel De’Jesus, the inviting restaurant celebrates local history with historical photos of the neighborhood and the Incline Railway (1885 is the year St. Elmo was founded). Patrons can enjoy Southern-inspired appetizers, main plates, sides, and sandwiches. Try the Cuban—it’s delicious.