So….Wednesday was my birthday. Alas, we went out to dinner on Tuesday night because we were short on time and I was craving queso….so on Wednesday I forced myself to use up the eggplants I bought at the farmers market to make eggplant parmesan. Anyway this has been a stressful couple of weeks (school started on the 10th, and the first month of school is always the most stressful!) and I was definitely getting a decent meal out somewhere, although until last night I wasn’t sure where. When I got home from work yesterday, though, Philip showed me a picture of the pimento cheese fritters that he had tried while eating lunch with friends at The Honest Pint. If you’ll remember my Honest Pint post, I mentioned that The Terminal and The Pint are owned by the same people….so that made me start thinking about the terminal, and my mind was made up. Lunch today would be had there.
We’ve been to The Terminal a lot, and we’ve never been disappointed (well, except for the time that we tried to go there with a group of four friends on a Saturday night and couldn’t get seated for an hour…so we had to go elsewhere. That was disappointing). The Terminal BrewHouse is located next to the Chattanooga Choo Choo (THE Terminal) in the Stong (no, there is NOT an R in that word) building, a posh hotel back in the day. It is fully renovated (clearly) with wooden booths and cool tables made from reclaimed pine, a large bar taking center stage downstairs, brick walls, three floors, and a “green roof” where you can sit outside and they often host musical acts.
The Terminal is called a BrewHouse because the are a microbrewery, with six beers brewed on the premises. Their website promises that “the beer you hold in your hand is pulled fresh from the tank,” and also reminds diners that they “do not order more beer, [they] craft more beer,” and therefore some of their beers may be temporarily unavailable. I don’t really drink beer….I don’t really drink alcohol at all….but I have great respect for restaurants that are going out of their way to craft something-anything-from scratch. Great beermaking is a science and an art, and from everyone that I’ve heard from, The Terminal has mastered it.
Since Philip and I started going to The Terminal, I have heard more than one person say, “Isn’t that a bar? I don’t like bar food.” This is not bar food, my friends. This is just good food. The menu is divided into nine sections: beer, appetizers (“Start Me Up”), soup and salad “stylings”, entrees (Market & Main dishes), “outstanding” pizzas, “Galactically Famous BrewHouse Burgers, sandwich shop, sides, and desserts (happy endings). The menu items have funky names, like Mr. Frog’s Super Happy Fun Journey (an appetizer sampler), Navin R. Johnson (a salmon entree), and the FruFru, a grilled chicken, brie, and pear sandwich.
Our server, Jennifer, came to our table within 15.2 seconds and took our drink order, then as she walked back by Philip asked her to bring us an order of FESTO (Feta Basil Pine Nut Olive Oil spread, or Feta Pesto, baked to “gooey perfection” on Niedlov’s bread). The FESTO came out quickly, and we scarfed it down just about as quickly. This stuff is so good. It has the salty briny taste of feta with the nutty bite of pine nuts, all bound together with olive oil, spread on crust bread, baked until the edges are just perfectly crispy, and sprinkled with basil. Oh my. We get this every time we go. I keep thinking that we need to order another appetizer, like Twisted Hummmmmmmus (“Tahini and Garbanzo mixture tweaked out with black bean and roasted red pepper goodness. Served w/ fresh chips and pita bread”) or the BrewHouse Nachos (not on the online menu, these are back by popular demand-slow cooked maple chipotle pot roast, queso, onions, and diced tomatoes on corn chips. I’m thinking that’s more of a meal than an appetizer, and that’s probably how I’ll order it)….but we just can’t ever bring ourselves to not order the FESTO.
It didn’t take me long to decide what I wanted. In fact, I knew what I was going to order before I walked in the door. I gave the menu a quick once-over just in case I changed my mind, but I didn’t. I had been craving a West By God salad for about a month. I couldn’t possibly order anything else. Now, I almost never order salads as my meal in a restaurant. In fact, this is the only one. I’ve never had a salad like this anywhere else (unless you count the copycat that I make at home). The West By God is described in the menu as “Grilled steak and French fries over house greens, candied pecans, tomatoes, onions and bleu cheese. We climbed the mountain and brought down this West Virginia classic (we left the crushing poverty though).” I order it with the Terminal’s housemade Ranch dressing, as recommended by the server the first time I ordered it. I realize that for some, French fries on a salad may seem strange, but don’t knock it till you try it. The combination of grilled steak (it’s shaved before it’s grilled, so it is similar to what you might find on a Philly cheesesteak as opposed to if you grilled it first then sliced it), French fries, and bleu cheese is not to be believed. It’s like a sandwich….on a salad….and the candied pecans are icing on the cake. Of course, I order mine without the onions, because raw onions make me want to cry (and it’s not the automatic eye-watering effect that comes from slicing an onion. I love cooked onions but I HATE raw). The ranch dressing-wow. If you’ve never had ranch dressing that didn’t come from a bottle, I encourage you to try it. Here’s the recipe I use. It’s fresh, herby, and delicious, and it’s the perfect compliment to the wonderful-ness of this salad, which contains delicious bitterness from the mixed greens, grilled spiciness from the steak, warm, salty, crispiness from the hand-cut, skin-on fries, pungent tanginess from the bleu cheese, and sweet toastiness from the pecans. Do you get my point? This salad has so many flavors going on that you might think it would be too much…but it isn’t. It’s a perfect salad. Perfect.
Philip took a little bit longer than I did to decide what he was going to order, but not long. He considered the bison burger (which he’s ordered before) and even looked at the Philosopher’s Burger (which is new and not yet on the online menu-ground lamb, seasoned with cinnamon, oregano, shallots, and sea salt, served with feta aioli and candied red onion on a Niedlov’s bun) before settling on a regular beef burger with cheddar cheese and bacon, fully dressed with lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard, and mayo, with hand-cut fries. We always order our burgers here medium. Now, the menu doesn’t point out where the beef comes from, and I didn’t think to ask, but so many of their ingredients are locally sourced that I am going to assume that I can trust their beef. Besides, they have a statement in their menu (I wish I’d written it down!) about the doneness of their burgers. They’ll cook it any way you want it. Medium is the way to go….but then, if you know me, you know I’d rather poke my eye out than eat overcooked beef. Some people are grossed out by pink-ness. I am grossed out by brown-ness, black-ness, charred-ness. What’s the point? But I digress. This burger is just amazing. So far, it’s my favorite burger in town (I love FoodWorks’s burger….but The Terminal has them beaten by a smidge). The handmade Niedlov’s kaiser roll is amazing, the meat is perfect (it’s just the right amount of greasy!)….it’s so fresh, the vegetables are always right. I can’t say enough good things about this burger. It’s also gigantic, so if you order it, prepare to be stuffed because if you’re like me, you won’t be able to leave any on your plate (and you know my rule that I always-almost always, anyway-leave something on my plate).
When we were done, Jennifer tried to tempt us with dessert. Specifically, she tried to tempt us with floats made from Clumpie’s ice cream and beer. Now, that doesn’t sound like my thing, but if you are a beer lover, perhaps it’s yours. People tend to have very strong feelings about mixing/not mixing their beer with things. What does sound tempting, though, is the Brewer’s Wife Stout Bundt Cake. Alas, we were stuffed, and dessert was not to be had. Someday.
If you aren’t in the mood for a burger or salad, I’ve heard great things about (but have yet to try) the pizzas. The stuffed sandwiches are great and made a convert of a friend of mine who for some reason did not like the food on his first visit. The It’s Always Sunny In Philly (cheesesteak) is great, and Philip really liked the Dirty Hippy, a mushroomy vegetarian sandwich.
If you haven’t tried The Terminal BrewHouse, I encourage you to give up your notions of “bad bar food” and give it a try. Tell them Chattavore sent you. The Terminal is located at No.6 14th Street, Chattanooga, TN 37408 (right next door to the Chattanooga Choo Choo). They can be contacted at 423-752-8090. Check out their website and their Facebook page.