Some of my longest-lasting, fondest memories are of a night enjoying good food and good company at one of Chattanooga’s many culinary delights. When I was a kid in the 80s and early 90s, the options, however, were limited. Our family’s staple choices rotated among Town and Country, The Country Place, and the Piccadilly. Succinctly, we weren’t super adventurous.
In those days, the Southside wasn’t safe, the Northshore had yet to be developed, and downtown was still dirty. Jack Lupton’s dream of revitalizing downtown – spearheaded by the Tennessee Aquarium – was still in its formative stages. At that time, even Hamilton Place was brand new. Great local food simply wasn’t a thing; instead, the landscape was dotted with fast food and casual dining chains throughout Hixson and Brainerd.
But things have changed. Like Nashville before it, Chattanooga has become a foodie destination. In no particular order, here are five of my favorite local destinations:
Niedlov’s Breadworks (215 E Main Street)
Perhaps I’m biased because I’m writing this blog post tucked away in the corner of this Southside gem, but Niedlov’s is a local’s paradise. Each morning, Erik Zilen and his team are up before light hits the day, baking and preparing the restaurant’s succulent breads. It’s where the name comes from – “We love to knead. We knead to love.” Niedlov’s breads are served in nearly 50 local restaurants across the Scenic City.
But Niedlov’s is more than a bread factory. It’s a thriving member of the growing Chattanooga coffee-shop scene. Niedlov’s has become a popular meet-up spot. Business deals are negotiated; friends reconnect; start-up companies all are formed inside it’s cozy walls. The pastries are endless, and its lunch menu – think Panera, but fresher – is heavily underrated.
The Daily Ration (1220 Dartmouth Street)
The Daily Ration has made quite a splash in Chattanooga in a short time period. Less than two years old, owners Jason Bowers and Matt Skudlarek have created a breakfast menu that is unrivaled. High-end coffee is the norm, rather than the exception, and its culinary delights range from the Indian-inspired Delhi Me In (a garlic chickpea pancake with roasted sweet potatoes) to the Southern Benedict topped with white cheddar pimento cheese and candied bacon.
Jason and Matt’s second restaurant – The Bitter Alibi – is equally as popular. Located near the UT-Chattanooga campus, The Bitter Alibi is a modern pub that serves brunch, burgers, craft beer, and cocktails. It has been growing both in popularity and in size, and was named as a finalist in the 2018 Chattanooga Chamber Small Business Awards.
Pizzeria Cortile (4400 Dayton Boulevard)
Ten years ago, Red Bank was dying. The community demographics had changed drastically, a far cry from the middle-class suburb it once was. Businesses were fleeing the area faster than the rents could drop. Abandoned buildings littered every block of Dayton Boulevard. But, then, things began to change. As the Northshore became too crowded, the young, entrepreneurial crowd began to push its way back through the Cherokee Boulevard tunnel into Red Bank.
Pizzeria Cortile is continuing this revitalization expansion. Opened near the end of last year, Pizzeria Cortile features a huge brick-oven grille that naturally bakes each of its homemade pizzas. Homemade cannoli is a staple, and the individual-sized pizzas are fresh and made in front of you, with the dough thrown into the air as if you’re in a New York pizza establishment. For dessert, try the nutella rolls fluffed in pizza dough.
Frothy Monkey (1400 Market Street)
If you love history, you’ll love the Frothy Monkey. The Glenn Miller Band made the Chattanooga Choo Choo famous in the 1930s with its big-band hit song, and the old train depot remains one of Chattanooga’s most oft-visited tourist attractions. This Nashville establishment has expanded into Chattanooga, and has taken 4,500 square feet within the Choo Choo and renovated it into a depot-style comfort food mecca.
Breakfast and brunch are offered every day until 5:00 p.m., and lunch and dinner are also offered daily. But what really sets this local gem apart is the dessert menu; cheesecake, salted chocolate tart, and every Southern boy’s favorite – banana pudding.
Embargo 62 (301 Cherokee Boulevard)