Chattanooga, standing on the Tennessee River at the southern edge of the Appalachian Mountains, was for many years an industrial powerhouse before its fortunes declined in the 1970s. Since the early 1990s, the city has seen a cultural renaissance, with visitor attractions emerging, art galleries opening, and excellent restaurants serving great local produce for good prices. Here are ten of the best restaurants in Chattanooga.
The Southern Star is run by Rick and Nancy Adams, who serve up fresh food prepared fresh each day. The Southern Star aims to provide high quality Southern cuisine and great, traditional hospitality. Specialties include fried catfish, barbecue chicken and pork, and that great Southern staple Brunswick stew, prepared every day with fresh vegetables and slow roasted pork. You can also find a range of salads and sandwiches on the menu, including Virginia ham with spicy mustard, and if you prefer some seafood there are lightly fried oysters from Apalachicola.
Terra Máe, Chattanoog | Courtesy TerraMae Restaurant
TerraMae was established at the end of 2012 and provides excellent quality contemporary interpretations of traditional Appalachian cuisine. The chef Shelley Cooper combines her formal training with her Southern roots to produce cuisine that has won excellent reviews in the press. Previously she worked in Los Angeles, Alaska, and in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. TerraMae is located in a building over 100 years old that was once the Stone Fort Inn and stands the site of an old American Civil War fortress. The ingredients are all grown locally to Chattanooga, and the restaurant even has its own farm that provides produce for the table.
St. John's Restaurant, Chattanooga | Courtesy St John's Restaurant
St John’s Restaurant
St John’s Restaurant provides a refined, sophisticated dining experience. Based in the former St John’s Hotel building, which was subsequently used as a brothel before being abandoned, the restaurant uses only the local vegetables picked on the day of service, and seafood caught within the previous 24 hours. On the menu are starters that include butter poached Maine lobster, warm beet salad, pork cheek, veal sweetbreads, and an organic vegetable platter. Amongst the main courses at St John’s are duck breast from Maple Leaf Farm, summer vegetable spaghetti, and pork chop and belly from Heritage Farm. For dessert there are excellent South Carolina peaches during the summer months.
Alleia’s chef Daniel Lindley serves up a fusion of rustic Italian cuisine with regional ingredients from the surrounding farms of Chattanooga. The restaurant is based in the old Harrington building and has a redeveloped interior that captures the feel of a traditional trattoria. From the restaurant diners can look out on Lookout Mountain in the distance, whilst on the menu they will find the traditional Italian order of antipasti, insalate, primi, secondi and then dolci courses. Try the wood-fired pork shoulder and quail breast as a main course.
Rembrandt’s Coffee House is named after the great Dutch artist of the 17th century Rembrandt van Rijn. The coffee house is housed inside a French style stucco building in the Bluff View Art District that was redeveloped during the 1990s and now contains artisan bakeries, a sculpture garden, the River Gallery, and is just a minute walk from the Hunter Museum of American Art on the Tennessee River. Rembrandt’s Coffee House was opened in 1994 and has since picked up countless awards and plaudits from the press. It has been consistently voted the ‘Best Coffee House’ in the Times Free Press and Cityscope publications. The coffee house is famous for its pastries and cakes, but you can pick up a cooked breakfast of French toast, meat and fruits, as well as a signature sandwich.
The concept of 212 Market began in 1989 with sisters Sally and Susan Moses and their mother Maggie, at a time when there was little investment in the downtown area of Chattanooga on the southern bank of the river. It took a further three years before their dream of a restaurant serving high quality locally sourced food was realised, in what was once a car dealership. Now 212 Market has its own bakery on-site serving excellent desserts and breads, while the chef has won plaudits and appeared as a guest in leading New York restaurants. The wine list has consistently won awards, taking a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence every year for the last decade. Amongst the dishes not to its out on is the bison ribeye and Chattanooga whiskey barbecued local pork loin.
The Terminal Brewhouse was the first brewpub to be established in Chattanooga. Now the Brewhouse serves excellent food and award-winning beers made on-site by the master brewers. The Brewhouse is based in the Strong building of 1910 that was originally built to house a hotel for passengers using the nearby Terminal station. In later years the building was used as a speakeasy and illegal casino during Prohibition, before the Brewhouse was established in 2006. Visitors can enjoy traditional fare such as nachos, steaks, lasagne, salmon, and a wide range of pizzas to go with one of the Brewhouse beers. The Brewmaster Steve Purdie produces ales including Oatmeal stout, Maibock, Belgian White, American Copper Ale, and West Coast IPA.
The Easy Bistro and Bar offers an Old World atmosphere with authentic flavours and ingredients such as would be found in a classic French bistro. Based in downtown Chattanooga in a building that was the very first Coca-Cola bottling plant, the restaurant is only a short distance from the Tennessee Aquarium and the Hunter Museum of American Art. Easy Bistro and Bar have developed close links with their suppliers so you can expect oysters from Island Creek, fish from Pickett Trout Farm, and rare breed pork and grass fed beef from Sequatchie Cove Farm. Amongst the entrée courses available are slow-braised beef brisket, steak frites, moules frites, filet mignon, and rainbow trout à la Grenobloise.
Public House aims to provide the excellent quality food you would expect at the fine dining establishment, with the relaxed atmosphere and friendly service of a classic public house. You can expect to find excellent cuisine with an emphasis on the link between supplier and restaurant. Seafood comes fresh from Foley’s in Boston, bread from Niedlov’s Breadworks in Chattanooga, and fresh produce from Lee and Gordon Greens in Chickamauga, Georgia, Pickett’s Ranch in Whitwell, Tennessee, and Barton Creek Farms in Rock Island. The dinner menu includes excellent small platters of beef carpaccio, pork belly, and quail breast, larger dishes of grilled salmon, confit duck, and red wine braised pot roast.
The Big River Grille and Brewing Works is located close to the IMAX Theatre in downtown Chattanooga. The concept behind the restaurant was inspired by the great produce and breweries that sprang up along the Mississippi and Tennessee rivers in the 19th century. The brewing works produces award-winning ales and lagers that have taken medals at the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Festival. Iron Horse Stout has four times taken medals, while the Sweet Magnolia American Brown Ale is a previous gold medal winner. All the beers are handcrafted on-site and there is plenty of good traditional food to accompany them. Look out for traditional fare including shrimps, tacos, buffalo wings, calamari and peppers, pizzas, and a range of steaks.