It's been too long since I've been to Southern Star, but the fact I'm putting it number one for lunch is telling: it's fun, home-style cookin' and representative of true Southern fare (I have a love thang for their creamed corn and mashed potatoes). Their sweet tea is perfect and they'll start you with wafer-thin cornbread on the house (ask for it extra crispy and be sure to sprinkle with salt). Menu changes daily but salads and sandwiches are always available. I hate to say it but their desserts aren't my favorite...they look better than they taste. Open weekdays only on the Southside, 1300 Broad St, Chattanooga 37402 (second location on Signal Mountain).
If I liked hotdogs better, this might've made the #1 spot for lunch; it's not just about the food, I like the story behind the food. What Five Guys did for burgers, Susan, Fred & the gang are doing for dogs. They're part of Chattanooga's Harvested Here movement and they refuse to use anything but fresh ingredients, local when available. Sausages are seasoned and cased in-house, gluten-free buns are available, and I'm partial to their twice-fried fries (frites), served in a cone that plops right in an opening in your table. Come early and plan to gander a bit--their tiny space is FULL of dog-gone fun memorabilia and local artistry. On the North Shore, open seven days. 34 Frazier Ave, Chattanooga 37405.
One of only two chains I'll mention, but they've earned it the old fashioned way: by serving "Fine. Food. Fast!" They have the BEST salads in Chattanooga (my favorite is the Market--mixed baby greens, balsamic vinaigrette dressing, candied walnuts, golden raisins, cranberries, apples, toasted almonds, but I hold the mandarin oranges). One of the things I like best about F2O is they have full portions and 3/4 portions, and recently they added very reasonably priced Chef Small Bite Appetizers. Just look at this gorgeous Almond-crusted Seared Tuna atop Asian Slaw with a Dijon Vinegarette!! A perfect size for me and only $5. Crazy. One more plus (as if there weren't enough), I love their decor. You WILL be served FAST but it feels anything like a fast-food place. You can order online in advance, on their monitor when you walk in the door or stand in line to place it; a little off-putting at first but no big deal once you've tried it. Kids eat free on Sundays. Hamilton Place Mall area, 1919 Gunbarrel Road, Chattanooga, 37421.
I've only been there once and all I can say is Shame on me! TBH is the kind of place that attracts both locals and visitors, and its diverse menu will leave everyone with more than a few choices. They use locally sourced ingredients and their craft beers are found elsewhere around town. My daughter loves the Fru Fru Chicken Sandwich, and their sweet potato fries are the best I've had (dusted in cinnamon sugar & fried perfectly); we inhaled their Festo--Feta Basil Olive Oil Spread slathered on fresh bread. If you order the salmon, make sure to ask for it rare (mine was overcooked and dry). YUM on the bacon-studded grits & although I can't speak from experience, friends rave about their salads and burgers. Oh, and if you're curious about their in-house crafted beers? Try their sampler, six 2-ounce pours and a great way to figure out which you like best.
Yes, it's a tea room, but I've never gone for tea, only lunch (though we DID have tea service :) ). It's authentic, lovely for a special, memorable outing, and a departure from the ordinary. I had the yummy soup of the day (potato leek) with a crusty roll, and while I don't recall what anyone else had, we ended our meal with Eton Chaos (fresh strawberries and meringue chips folded into whipped cream) and Profiteroles (cream puffs served with chocolate sauce and custard). Mmmmm! If the Southside was closer to my house, I'd frequent the English Rose, it doesn't just feed the stomach, it feeds the soul. In addition to tea and food service, they have a fun little gift shop full of All Things Tea. Open Tuesday- Saturday, 11:00-5:00; 1401 Market Street, Chattanooga, 37402.
I'm adding this one for three reasons: a) FANtastic onion rings made with Aretha Frankenstein's pancake batter; b) Liquid nitrogen milkshakes made right before your eyes--it's a show for little ones and the young at heart (they're made in a shake "lab" while you watch); c) the kitsch. I love their branding concept. I know, I know, you can't judge a book by its cover, but I like their retro vibe. Their burgers are good, better to me than Southern Burger Co. Though I wish I could add Southern Burger to my list, I've had bad experiences twice now at their Ooltewah location (soggy buns, limp french fries, small servings and marginal service; I hope their other location is better and their line is a mile long at the Chattanooga Market, a good sign). Just beyond Downtown, 1743 Dayton Blvd, Chattanooga, 37405.
Noteables: Beyond the Garden Gate (off the beaten path in Ooltewah, a little kitschy, but their quiche & raspberry tea are favorites); Champy's (the best Chattanooga fried chicken), Cafe Roma (their website is lacking, but their food is not! VERY worth the drive to Cleveland, TN; great seafood).
If you live in the Tennessee Valley, what are your favorite lunch destinations??
DO share your favorite hometown lunch spots in comments! If you aren't a blogger, you can even link your list from Facebook or Pinterest!!