I've saved my favorite Chattanooga restaurants for last; while most of them could be lunch destinations as well, I prefer these for dinner fare. I'll share a bit about why they're included and pictures if I have them.
Riverside, 1459 Riverside Drive, Chattanooga, TN 37406 || 423-622-0122
Why I love it: Back porch seating overlooking the Tennessee River. It's worth it to wait or arrive early (or late) in order to grab a spot; you're doubly lucky if it's at sunset. The Boat House is located along the Tennessee Riverpark, a 10-mile stretch of trails starting at the Chickamauga Dam and ending in Downtown Chattanooga. We park our car near the dam and ride bikes to the Boat House; then, stop for a few eats and drinks to rest and reload for the rest of our ride.
Something special: If you arrive between 2-6, you'll receive Happy Hour prices on drinks AND appetizers; you'll be able to sample a lot for a little money. Their fried okra is spectacular--whole pods sliced lengthwise, then lightly battered and fried to perfection (my friend Stephanie swears by their woodgrilled okra but I'm holding tight). Funny, I've only tasted a few menu items because these things are what keep me coming back. Salads are very good, the Voodoo Chicken is a nice change-up on chicken, and their fries, cooked in olive oil, are impossible to resist.
One more thing: This is one of the three restaurants owned by Lawton & Karen Haygood that make my list. Three different concepts, three fantastic eateries.
Southside, 1110 Market St. Chattanooga 37402 || 423.266.3366
Why I love it: The story behind the restaurant: "...an extension of a community..." (one reason I love homegrown spots). They offer high quality & local-when-possible ingredients, attentive service, and little details that make a difference (i.e., black napkins if you're wearing dark clothes but white cloth if not). They offer two sizes of sides, a wide variety of selection and complimentary Niedlov's yeast rolls (but only by request).
Something special: The decor will grab your attention the minute you walk in the door. For some reason the white leather (pleather? vinyl??) made me think "Frank Sinatra"...but I don't know why. It feels simultaneously retro and current.
If you'd like an afternoon cocktail or have to wait for a table, be sure to check out The Social, a small gathering spot/watering hole just beyond the restaurant. It was there one afternoon the bartender gave us a lesson in all things Chartreuse, its origin as a French liqueur made by Carthusian Monks, which in turn, lends itself to the yellow/green shade by the same name.
One more thing: It's been too long since I've eaten at the Public House, in large part because it's 30 minutes+ from our house; the fried chicken is the only thing I can remember to recommend; but I couldn't let that stop me from putting it on my list--it really is a special place. Oh, and I can't think of anyone else who has a better, more engaged, local social media presence!
Why I love it: Their venue, the Southern Railway Baggage Building (circa 1867), and yes, their burgers. Plus, I applaud them for buying local when possible. My go-to burger simple--The Big Cheese--but it becomes spectacular with their housemade pimento cheese, melty and drippy. Say yes to the Gouda Creamed Corn and a dessert shake using Clumpies Ice Cream.
Something special: They've built "one of the most environmentally friendly businesses in one of the oldest buildings in the city." (LEED Certified.) Cool beans.
Urban Stack is one of several restaurants that make my list by local restauranteurs Taylor and Mike Monen--I mentioned Milk & Honey on my breakfast list and you'll see another below.
One more thing: This is a burger and bourbon bar, and from what I understand they have some mighty fine whiskeys--I'm wildly curious if I could tell the difference between a 2-ounce pour of Johnnie Walker Blue ($67, most expensive) and Old Crow ($4.50, cheapest). The bourbon menu is fun to read and it's educational: you'll learn there's a way to order it: neat, on the rock or stacked.
Unless you arrive during off hours, you're going to have to wait.
Northshore, 109 North Market Street, Chattanooga, TN 37405 || 423.648.6262
Why I love it: It's not Tex-Mex, it's Fresh-Mex. This is the third restaurant making my lists from the talented team of Mike and Taylor Monen. I love Taco Mamacita's branding--colorful, fun, memorable and consistent with their fare. You really can taste the fresh, and Taco Mamacita is not - I repeat not- a typical Mexican restaurant.
Something special: Mexican Street Corn, shaved (off the cob) and the Salsa Sampler (mango jalepeno, sweet and spicy). My favorite taco is the General Homeboy and their Peruvian Chicken is tender and yummy. Like margaritas? Try the Elvez.
One more thing: This is the only Monen-owned restaurant with locations elsewhere - Nashville and Sullivan's Island - but I'm thinking that's only a matter of time. The Monens develop a concept well, set a standard of excellence, and the rest is up to the customers. If you're at any of their restaurants during peak hours (Taca Mamacita, Urban Stack, Milk & Honey and I'm guessing Community Pie, too, a newish pizza venture), you're going to have to wait. It's worth it.
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Two chains I have to mention--
1) because they're in the Gunbarrel Road/Hamilton Place Mall area
(so much of what I mention is downtown); and
2) because they're closer to where we live, they're places we frequent.
2215 Hamilton Place Blvd, Chattanooga, TN 37421 || 423.855.5559
Why I love it: Consistent, excellent quality, large portions (though smaller in recent years) and exceptional service. I'm partial to their salmon or marinated rib-eyes, and their loaded baked potato is the loadiest of them all.
Something special: Servings are large and we typically share an entree and split a salad. There's no way you'll have room for dessert if you get an appetizer, so keep that in mind. They've recently added guacamole to their menu and it's absolutely HOLY GUACAMOLE! A mile high and chunky, expensive but soooo good.
One more thing: The Key Lime Pie WILL be the best you've ever put in your mouth--mounds of real, whipped cream and not too tart, not too sweet. All of their desserts are delicious, worth the price and calories, large enough to share. Also, they're one of the few local restaurants I've found that serve Mollydooker wines by the glass, a favorite when I can get it.
2115 Gunbarrel Rd, Chattanooga, TN 37421 || 423.892.3175
Something special: Servers knowledgeably recommend what preparation to go with the type fish you're considering. Warm mango salsa, pan asian, lemon butter--it's hard for me to decide because they all sound good. Also, their Pecan Parmesan-Crusted Trout was fantastic the last time I had it (but since I keep going back for the Bang Bang Shrimp $5 deal, it's been a long time since I've ordered anything else).
One more thing: Don't turn your nose up if you aren't a fan of chain restaurants or think you can't get good seafood when you aren't near the coast. There's a very good reason Bonefish is always crowded--it's fairly priced, the staff is well-trained and attentive, and the seafood is consistent and delicious. (Consistency is important to me, can you tell? It's high praise when I mention it.)
In fact, I happened to find out in advance that Bonefish Grill was voted the Times Free Press Best of the Best for Seafood in Chattanooga this year!! They'll be featured in the TFP 9/27 edition (along with the rest of the Best of the Best winners)!
In celebration, Bonefish is awarding a $50 gift card to one of my readers, details at the end of this post.
I like these spots a lot, and I'll tell ya why ~
Sugar's Ribs. Yummy barbecue, fresh corn on the cob (a specialty, you'll see why), wood-grilled okra & perfect sweet tea. Owned by the same couple as Boat House Rotisserie and Raw Bar (and Canyon Grill below), they do what they do VERY well. Plus, there's entertainment for the children: goats. While you're waiting on your food, you can feed the goats! (Yes, they're outside...!)
Tony's Pasta Shop & Trattoria. A fabulous location in the Bluff View Arts District (downtown). Tony's is a local institution, reasonably priced and good Italian. It has fun outdoor and upstairs (backporch) seating, but you're going to have to wait if you arrive during peak hours; there are no reservations or call ahead seating.
St. Johns Restaurant. Arguably the nicest restaurant in Chattanooga; also, the most expensive (the reason I didn't include it in more detail). You can expect excellent service in a beautiful setting, but if you eat upstairs, your food might cool a bit by the time it arrives from the downstairs kitchen. There's also their sister restaurant right next door, the Meeting Place. For some reason, we've never made it there, but it's reputed to be the same delicous food; just in a more casual setting. Yep, it's on my list.
And if you ask me my absolute favorite? I'll tell you........
The Haygood's third restaurant on my list (joining Boathouse and Sugar's). It's a worthwhile drive from downtown Chattanooga, located in a modest building at the top of beautiful Lookout Mountain. Don't judge this award-winning restaurant by its cover--the food is memorable, fresh and nothing short of spectacular. They ice down all their meats and seafoods rather than refrigerate them. My favorites:
- Slash & Burn Catfish ~ it's not just an entree, it's an experience. Ugly to look at, beautiful to eat, and they keep track of how many they've sold (21,571 when I checked). I cannot believe they've shared the recipe.
- Fried Squash ~ I cannot figure out how to duplicate its light coating, and it is by far the best I've ever tasted.
- Coconut Cake ~ OhMyLanta--THIS is Nectar of the Gods in cake form. I don't even LIKE coconut, and every time I eat this the heavens illumine and angels sing.
- Other mentionables: hickory smoked steaks and bread pudding (one of my friends wanted to buy the decadent sauce and drink it). Canyon Grill is located in a dry county, but you can "bring your own" if you'd like.
BIG THANKS to Bonefish Grill for offering a $50 giftcard to one of my readers, in celebration of their Times Free Press win for Best of the Best - Seafood in Chattanooga! (Giftcard is good at ANY Bonefish Grill.)
To enter this giveaway, simply Like this post using the FB button below and/or share this post within your social networks. Comment the URL to your Facebook Status, Tweet, Pin or whatever you choose to do; you can also Like the Bonefish Grill Chattanooga and Corporate page and comment that you did for extra entries.
You're welcome to enter more than once but be sure to leave a separate comment for each entry. Deadline for entry is Friday, September 27th (midnight EST), the day the Times Free Press award winners are published.