All Aboard the Chattanooga Choo Choo for Food

Sat. November 28, 2020 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn

What do visitors expect from the cuisine when exploring Chattanooga? Tennesseeans were raised on country sunshine and comfort food over the years and that reflects on the current restaurant scene. After writing a recent travel story in Nashville, Tennessee, the focus for chefs has grown in the Music City with regional offerings of hot chicken and barbeque. In Chattanooga, there are hints of this influence, but other fare is mixed in with examples such as the variety of tacos from Mamacita or the overwhelming brisket burger from Fat Boy's Roadside Eats.

The fourth largest city in Tennessee comes in first for many of the dishes offered in restaurants visited in November of 2020.

Look no further than Easy Bistro & Bar, at 801 Chestnut St., displaying an upscale vibe and diverse menu. The hearty strozzapreti combines lamb ragu, fennel and mint together to make an unforgettable, distinct dish. Beware the pistachio if you have a nut allergy, but otherwise dive right in! Chef Erik Niel knows what he's doing in an open kitchen that invites guests from all sides of downtown on a bustling street corner.

Chattanooga rules as far as coffee shops, so stay away from those basic chain based franchises and instead sip locally at spots like Sleepyhead Coffee in the historic James Building. The owners are vegan, so expect cruelty free products that will warm your soul in the process.

Other outstanding caffeine haunts include Rembrandt's Coffee House, with a very sweet French toast feast called The Bee's Knees, or Mean Mug's breakfast biscuit that reminded me of my southern roots after just one bite.

Keep in mind that the sister store Bluff View Bakery is currently shuttered because of the pandemic, but items ordered can be picked up at Rembrandt's after visiting

City Cafe Diner serves breakfast around the clock and brings rich desserts to the table such as the thick Coca-Cola Cake. Many people just pop in for a to-go order of the massive selection offered. Size queens rejoice as portion control is obviously thrown out the window here!

For more Chattanooga chocolate make sure and drive over to The Hot Chocolatier. Grab a Squirrel that is simply inspired by a turtle.This time, the squirrel hides it's nuts under the caramel and chocolate to make the name more fitting and original the traditional chocolate turtle offered by many chocolatiers. This store is located in the Chattanooga Choo Choo area across from the bustling Frothy Monkey cafe that is also recommended. The Monkey can be tricky as it opens up early and fills up fast!

Just a few blocks away from that is the Public House Restaurant, known for its sweet tea brined fried chicken. Throw in some delectable sides, like the macaroni and mashed potatoes, to add to the experience. Quench your thirst on the refreshing Rosemary's Baby mocktail while soaking up the sun on the patio at 1110 Market St. before the weather changes this season.

Support the restaurant industry and the LGBTQ+ community at the same time by stopping in two very different establishments. Out owner Scottie Bowman has created an environment that welcomes everyone, first with The Big Chill & Grill and then with Scottie's on the River. Scottie's Crispy Sole had just the right flake to it and is served over rice pilaf with a side of citrus sauteed broccolini. The view is incredible of the Tennessee River and patrons can feel safe with transparent dividers between the booths and plenty of outdoor seating.

Her Market Street hot spot The Big Chill & Grill has been serving up the fun since 1997. The Monday night Drag Show Bingo was a hoot thanks to hostess with mostess Veronica Day, who lip synchs from a distance and calls out letters on the microphone sprinkling in humor during a few nightly shows.

Bowman puts her money where her mouth is as her employees clearly love her and she treats them as family in return. She has raised money for her staff to help them and created sober living homes in the area to make the world a better place.

Restaurants have struggled in this rollercoaster of a year, but these spots have excelled at customer service and food quality to make up for the hard times. Make sure and sample them yourself while planning a trip at today!