As I was making this list, I realized something about myself. While I love “fine dining” restaurants, I love to throw down some bar food. It’s my favorite, you guys. I’d much rather have a burger or some hand-cut fries in a super-cas atmosphere than to make a reservation. There are some really fantastic places serving some really great food around Chattanooga. Here are my top ten things to eat in Chattanooga.
10. The Rainbow Sandwich from Purple Daisy Cafe
Pimento cheese, chicken salad, and cucumber spread piled onto four slices of bread-two white, two wheat-cut and arranged into a checkerboard pattern? When I first heard tell of this sandwich, I thought it sounded a little weird, but one of the colleagues I was dining with went for it and as soon as I saw it I was sold. There is just something about this combination that works. I’ve never been able to bring myself to order anything else from Purple Daisy since. Rainbow sandwich with hash brown casserole for the win, yo.
9. Frites & Fritessaus from Good Dog
Like I said (and you know, if you’ve read my blog for any length of time) I can scarf some handcut fries. If you put them in a paper cone and put them in a special holder cut right into my table then offer me a variety of dipping sauces, I’m sold. If one of those dipping sauces is a creamy mayonnaise-based sauce, I might even clean your house if you’ll give me some of them. I love the dogs at Good Dog but I could really subsist on the frites.
8. Gelato from Milk & Honey
Okay, I’m not going to lie. Nana’s Frozen Custard was always my favorite. But Nana’s is gone now, and someone has to fill the void. Luckily for me, Milk & Honey is here to take their place. I’ve always been a fiend for gelato, which is basically a milk-based Italian style ice cream. Milk & Honey has a glorious ever-rotating selection and every time I go in there I want to dive into the cooler and wade around in it. Thankfully they allow you to choose up to three varieties of gelato to go into your cup, because I can never choose just one. It’s creamy perfection.
7. Apple Pie Soda or Café Cola from Pure Sodaworks
Let me take a minute to lament the passing of the Pure Sodaworks physical location that left Coolidge Park earlier this year. It’s not that I’m not happy for my soda-slinging friends, who have moved on to the big world of bottling and distribution, but I’m sad for myself that I can’t drop in anytime for a freshly-drawn soda (lavender-mint was my #1 favorite) and I’m not a fan of the Chattanooga Market (too crowded). However, I can still drop in to Grocery Bar for a bottle of my faves, Apple Pie (which actually tastes just like apple pie) and Café Cola, (which is made with Velo Coffee). It’s one of my favorite weekend treats. I didn’t have a picture of a bottle, so here’s a photo of a couple of their fountain sodas…
6. Pomme Tots from The Honest Pint
Yes, I know they’re just tater tots fried in duck fat. But oh my goodness, they’re tater tots fried in duck fat. And they’re served with curry ketchup, sriracha mayo, and garlic aioli, all made in house. We can’t resist ordering them every. single. time. we go to The Pint, then we save the sauces to dip our chips into. The duck fat definitely takes the flavor and the texture of the tots over the top, and the sauces are amazing. The garlic aioli is my favorite, by the way.
5. Pimento Cheese & Fried Okra Appetizer from 1885 Grill
Okay, you might notice a pattern. I’m basically obsessed with pimento cheese. The pimento cheese at 1885 is wonderfully creamy and very similar to what I make at home. The fried okra is some of the best I’ve had. 1885 is one of the few restaurants that actually breads their own okra, and it’s perfection. The two together is irresistible.
4. The Ryan House Burger from Main Street Meats
So, um, you guys. This burger. Grass-fed beef, dry-aged in house, seared in a cast-iron skillet and served on a Niedlov’s bun (made next door) with Gruyere cheese, mayo and whole grain mustard, house bacon, and caramelized onions? You order it up and eat it at their little bar while you watch the goings-on at the firehouse across the street. Main Street Meats has the burger arts down to a science. You don’t need chips, you don’t need ketchup, you just need this burger. Some days they serve the Simon, which has house pastrami on it. Philip went there without me once and ordered it. I considered not speaking to him for the remainder of the week.
3. Pot Roast Nachos from The Terminal
I’ve never ordered anything that I didn’t like from the menu at The Terminal BrewHouse, but I’m glad they brought these nachos back (apparently they took them off the menu for a while?). Fresh, hot chips topped with maple chipotle pot roast, queso, red onions (that, yes, I pick around), tomatoes, and cilantro. They’re meant to be an appetizer, which implies sharing, but I always order them as my meal and yes, I eat the whole thing. I didn’t have a picture, but my friend Chastity sent me one a couple of days after I first posted this!
2. White Cupcakes from Federal Bake Shop
Federal Bake Shop has been around in Chattanooga since 1921. When I was a kid, it was located in Northgate Mall. When I was in high school, my best friend and I called it the Fed and regularly went there to order cupcakes. As a reader said, I’m not sure why cupcake shops can even stay open in Chattanooga when we have Federal Bake Shop around. Their cake is perfectly white and deliciously moist, the icing is sweet (I used to think too sweet, but I got over that) and not piled six inches high-just enough to have a taste in every bite. By the way, I hear that their cookie cakes kick all other cookie cakes’ butts. Everything I’ve ever had from there has been amazing. Why have I not written about them yet? Oh yeah….because I’d spend half a month’s salary buying all the goodies I want to sample.
1. Pimento Cheese & Fried Pickles Appetizer from Public House
Yep, pimento cheese. One more time. After I spent six months studying for my BCBA exam, I had to go to Public House to celebrate finally getting the exam out of the way in February. Why? Pimento cheese and fried pickles. Pimento cheese and fried pickles are two of my very favorite foods, and when you make the best possible versions of those foods and serve them with grilled sourdough bread so they can all be piled together, you have hit a home fun in my book. I could eat this every day. It’s absolutely my favorite thing to eat in CHA.
Chattanoogans, what’s your favorite food to eat in local restaurants? If you’re from out of town, where would you tell me to go in your hometown?