The Big Table is a small restaurant in Red Bank, Tennessee. It’s just a tiny bit off the beaten path (not too far) and they serve homemade favorites!
Funny thing about being a food blogger…you have to learn to be a photographer too. This was something that I didn’t know when I started Chattavore, but I very quickly learned that if I wanted to be taken seriously as a recipe blogger I better get pretty good at taking pictures. It has taken me a long time, but I finally feel like my photos are getting where I want them to be-through a lot of hard work and research…and natural light. Summertime is a food blogger’s best friend, what with the daylight lasting till 9 p.m. and all. Fall is upon us, though, and those long days are quickly getting shorter, so I knew I had to do something to make the most of the daylight hours. We’ll be doing our restaurant visits during the week so that we can use the daylight hours on the weekend for food photography. Our first weeknight visit: The Big Table.
I’ve been meaning to make it by The Big Table for a long time…really, I have. I’ve heard from several people that it was an excellent place to eat. Until I visited Merv’s, which is directly in front of The Big Table, a few months back, I was not 100% sure where the restaurant was located, though I did know the general vicinity. I also knew that it was a small space and that it was gaining in popularity, so a Friday or Saturday night would probably not be the best time to visit (at least for someone who doesn’t like to wait and hates crowded spaces), and I knew I really wanted to try their dinner menu. Early dinner on a Wednesday seemed like a perfect idea. And it was.
There was no one-NO ONE-in the restaurant when we got there. The Big Table is located in an old house, with the dining space taking up the two front rooms. I didn’t count the tables but I would estimate that there were not more than twelve (there is another house next door with the name The Big Table Too, so I don’t know if this is an overflow space or if it is currently being used-anyone else know about this?), with the official “big table” located in the room where we sat with engraved name plates. Sarah (or maybe it was Sara), the niece of the owners, explained to us that “the big table” was located in the dining room of the owner’s childhood home and the children had to wait for someone to grow up and move on before they could sit at “the big table”. There were lots of family pictures used as decor. I was immediately smitten with the space, with the family memories being recalled here.
Sarah brought us menus and a specials menu. Apparently the crab cakes are a very popular menu item, but we decided to pass on them (two ladies came in and ordered them while we were there though and were RAVING about them). There is a casserole of the day (on this day, poppy seed chicken over rice and a chicken, spinach, and red pepper casserole), a risotto of the day (I don’t remember what it was), a vegetarian entrée of the day (on that day it was a vegetarian risotto), and the chicken and fish are prepared daily with a special sauce or prep style.
I would have loved to try the risotto but at $15 I felt the price was a little steep considering that risotto is one of my home specialties. I considered the pané chicken (which was being served with a marinara sauce) and the grilled fajita marinated chicken alfredo, but I really, really wanted to try the poppy seed chicken. Poppy seed chicken is a creamy chicken casserole with mushrooms, shredded chicken, and, of course, poppy seeds. Every entrée is served with either soup of the day (today: corn chowder and vegetable beef) or a salad (house salad with pears, walnuts, feta, and raspberry vinaigrette, or Caesar). I decided on the house salad, but Sarah also brought us a cup of corn chowder to share because I had such a difficult time deciding between the house salad and the soup. I liked the soup, which definitely tasted homemade and had lots of great herby flavor. It was a thinner chowder and quite tasty but it did need a little more salt. The salad was nice…I liked the flavors together (it was similar to my Thanksgiving leftover salad!).
I really liked the poppy seed chicken. It wasn’t super-heavy as chicken casseroles can often be. There was more chicken than creamy sauce, and the sauce tasted homemade, not like processed soup. There were enough poppy seeds to taste (my more recent reading claim that eating poppy seeds will not cause you to fail a drug test, which is a good thing because I love poppy seeds.). I think poppy seeds have a great flavor; I used to work at a bagel shop and poppy seed bagels were my favorite. The rice was cooked well, not mushy, still a little chewy. I did need a little more salt in my chicken. The vegetables were fresh, nicely cooked with still a little crunch. I would have loved to have had more of the vegetables! I would love to see them serve a housemade roll or a roll from a local bakery (Bread Basket, anyone?).
Philip decided on the pot roast, which he knew he was going to order as soon as he saw it on the menu-it’s made with smoked brisket. Um, yes please. It was served with potatoes as well as the vegetable medley that I got. He decided on a Caesar salad, which was fairly nondescript. The pot roast, however, was not nondescript. It was served with a thick gravy that tasted homemade (and was well-seasoned) as well as potatoes and carrots cooked with the meat and potatoes au gratin and mixed vegetables on the side. The meat itself was perfectly tender, just short of falling apart but tender enough to cut with a fork. The potatoes were well cooked, well-seasoned, and tasted like they were actually made there and not out of a box like you might be afraid potatoes au gratin may taste. He stopped short of licking the plate, though he did give it brief consideration.
It was Wednesday night when we went, and Wednesdays are “buy one dessert, get one free” day. The desserts are homemade, and who are we to turn down buy one get one free desserts? They had chocolate chess and key lime pies as the specials, but if I see lemon bars on a menu I am pretty much obligated to order them, and Philip wanted to try the double fudge cream cheese brownie. We (or at least I, since Philip is not a huge fan of lemony desserts) felt pretty sure we’d hit the jackpot when we saw that we got two of each bar, which meant that we both got one of each….and the jackpot indeed it was. I’d say go there if for no other reason than for the desserts-the lemon bars and the brownies were both fantastic.
Our total for this visit was just under $25 pre-tip. I was really happy with our experience at The Big Table. I love small, family-owned and operated establishments. To me, The Big Table is like Red Bank’s version of Blue Ribbon Café, which many of you know is one of my very favorite places. They have a small menu, which means that they are not overwhelming themselves trying to make a million different dishes, and they serve things that a lot of other places don’t serve. They were extremely friendly and they have a pretty loyal crowd of regular diners. If you are looking for someplace just a little bit different from the mainstream, give them a try!
Personally, I am looking forward to going back to try the lunch at The Big Table sometime.
The Big Table is located at 118 Cross Street, Chattanooga, TN 37405 (like I mentioned before, just behind Merv’s). They have their own parking behind the building. They are open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. You can call them at 423-634-0772. You can read more about them at their website, thebigtable.net and you can also find them on Facebook. They also offer catering.