Elemental, now closed, was a restaurant on Chattanooga’s North Shore near Whole Foods. Their former chef Charlie Loomis has now gone on to open FEED Co. Table & Tavern.
Okay, let me tell you guys a story. It is completely unrelated to this post…but it needs to be told. It’s Saturday night as I type this. This afternoon, after spending a couple of hours reading about coding, I installed some ad codes in the HTML of my blog. The first one looked a little wonky but it showed up and worked, just needed some tweaking. So I install the second one, hit save…and boom. My blog = gone. Panic! Panic! Luckily in my research earlier in the day I had been poking around my server so I went into my server files and was able to fix the problem. Good grief.
Okay…moving right along. Today (Saturday) was my birthday! I am now firmly in my “mid-thirties”. Right in the middle to be exact. On our anniversary last month, we went to Easy Bistro but decided to go to Elemental for my birthday. I started waffling a little bit this morning because I had really wanted to try 1885 for a while too but in the end we decided to go to Elemental since we’d been planning that. Hopefully we’ll get to 1885 soon because I’ve heard lots of great things about it!
Anyway, there were not a ton of people in the restaurant when we got there at about 1:00. We were quickly seated by Josh, who turned out to also be our server. Since we had never been there before, he explained the mission of Elemental-to use as many local products as possible-and told us about the list of local farmers and producers on the back of the menu, then brought us water and left us to peruse the menu for a few minutes.
The first thing that struck me about Elemental was the atmosphere…very casual and rustic (I hate to use that word, but it really does fit here) but in a polished way. A Ford tractor adorns the center of the restaurant. There’s lots of wood, beautiful wood tables with succulents in a tiny Mason jar in the center of each. Track lighting illuminates the restaurant and small glass pendant lights with Edison bulbs hang over some of the tables, including ours, where we sat at a hightop table perched on wooden swivel stools as I admired the large metal letters spelling “Elemental” on the gigantic oven hood over the open kitchen. Swoon.
As I mentioned above, the back of the menu offers a list-a very long list-of local producers and farmers from which Elemental procures their goods. Chef Charlie Loomis, who moved here from Asheville to work as the head chef at Greenlife, strives to find goods as close to home as possible. If they cannot be bought locally, he will move to regional producers. This was definitely one of the most impressive lists of local sources that I have seen in my two and a half years blogging about Chattanooga restaurants.
So…food. I really, really wanted to try the boiled peanut hummus, served with marinated olives and housemade crackers. House.Made.Crackers. I had heard that it was amazing. Unfortunately, they were out. Josh suggested a flatbread as a consolation prize, so we decided on a chicken flatbread with basil pesto, marinated tomatoes, and housemade mozzarella. Delicious indeed, with a chewy crust, puffy and blackened in spots but thin and crispy for the most part. The mozzarella was perfect, creamy, just a hint of salt, and chewy, and the red and yellow tomatoes had that amazing ripeness that can only be found in July and August.
The special of the day was a BBQ burger, complete with a fried egg, and I would have ordered that if it hadn’t been for my mom’s promise of grilled burgers for Sunday dinner. I briefly weighed the roasted vegetable sandwich with pimento cheese and aioli against the BLT with Benton’s bacon (!), thick-sliced tomato, iceberg lettuce, basil aioli, and pimento cheese. Chances are that if you are a regular reader you already know which item I chose. Yes, my friends, Benton’s bacon won out. The sandwich was served on a shiny Niedlov’s bun dusted with sesame seeds, and my goodness…they did not skimp on the bacon-that was quite a stack, and Benton’s bacon, well, it’s just some of the best I’ve ever tasted. The tomato was ripe, juicy, and indeed very thickly sliced, then salted and peppered. There wasn’t a ton of pimento cheese under the tomato…just enough to lend the flavor. It was the best restaurant pimento cheese I’ve ever had-made with housemade aioli and Sweetwater Valley cheese, and it was the only pimento cheese that I’ve ever thought was as good as my own. Sorry, I happen to think very highly of my pimento cheese recipe! Iceberg lettuce may seem passé, but the crunch is unrivaled in the lettuce world (ha!) and really, isn’t that the purpose of the L in the BLT? The basil aioli was the final complement, lending just a little bit of herby bite and the bottom of the sandwich. I decided to have the split red potatoes, quite simply just roasted red potatoes with housemade rosemary aoili on the side. Simple and delicious-and I can’t believe I’ve never thought of serving my roasted potatoes with aioli. I think I’ll start!
Philip pretty much immediately decided on the Cloudcrest Farm pulled pork sandwich with a mixed green salad (by the way, the other sides were sweet potato wedges and cooked seasonal greens). The salad included a variety of spicy greens and a few thin beet strips as well as a light vinaigrette. The pulled pork was served on a Niedlov’s bun with a very flavorful, slightly spicy sauce and a lightly mayo-dressed coleslaw that also included beets. The pork was definitely the star of the show, cooked to falling apart tenderness and tasting so….porky. That may sound weird, but the thing about most pork these days is that they are bred to be so lean that they don’t really taste like pork. Local producers tend to use heirloom breeds that have more fat, hence more flavor. The pork at Elemental…doesn’t. Taste. Like. Chicken. This sandwich was perfect.
Unfortunately, I was so full after this meal that I couldn’t even think about dessert. I would have loved to check out the Ollie Pops, which are brown cow-esque confections made by Milk & Honey-vanilla gelato coated in chocolate-or one of Chef Loomis’s own creations. I look forward to going back for dinner and hopefully saving room for dessert this time…though I have heard from more than one person that trying the Sunday brunch is a necessity. We were able to spend a few minutes talking to the chef before we left and he reiterated the importance of elevating the menu by offering simple food from local purveyors. The quality of the food makes his job much easier-when it starts that fresh and amazing, you don’t have to do much to it before you serve it to guests. (***Note: in late August/early September Chef Loomis and Elemental parted ways. Chef Loomis has since moved on to 1885 Grill and Elemental has changed their menu but vowed to continue their mission of serving fresh, local, high-quality food.)
Our total for lunch before tip was about $26…not too bad for a locally-produced, upscale lunch in a beautiful atmosphere. I have to be honest, I’d read mixed review on Urbanspoon…but it appears that most of those were from the earliest days after Elemental’s opening, and I didn’t experience any of the downsides that were mentioned in those reviews. As always, I would encourage you to go and check it out for yourself…I don’t think you’ll be sorry (I wasn’t!).
Elemental is located at 313 Manufacturer’s Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405. They are open Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. `You can call them at 423-648-9160. Check out their website, elementalrestaurant.com. You can also “like” them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.