published Friday, September 21st, 2012

FoodWorks' brunch expensive but well worth the cost

IF YOU GO

• Where: FoodWorks, 205 Manufacturers Road.

• Phone: 752-7487.

• Website: RiversideFoodWorks.com.

• Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.

• Price range: $6 (soup or salad)-$20 (New York strip steak).

FoodWorks on Chattanooga's North Shore offers the best brunch in town, but diners should be prepared to pay for that quality.

Located on Manufacturers Road between 2 North Shore and Cherokee Boulevard, the converted mill building sits near many great Chattanooga brunch places. It's the restaurant's gourmet take on breakfast classics that sets it apart.

The great food typically draws a crowd when the restaurant opens at 11 on Saturdays and Sundays. With a reservation or a later eating time, diners can usually avoid a wait.

But no matter how long the wait, diners will find the food well worth it.

THE MENU

FoodWorks offers 10 breakfast and seven lunch menu options, ranging from a $10 chicken salad sandwich to a $20 New York strip steak. The menu's variety ensures something for everyone. Conservative brunchgoers order the breakfast burrito or oatmeal pancakes, while the adventurous go for the chicken and waffles or Darling breakfast sandwich -- bacon, egg and cheese layered between two Julie Darling doughnuts.

If $15 seems a bit much for a fried chicken breast atop a waffle, consider the restaurant's $1 mimosas, $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboys and $3.50 house Bloody Marys. The mimosas are sweet, with enough champagne to give them some bite and prove they are more than worth the $1.

The menu also features 10 brunch starters and four salads.

THE ORDER

I recommended my friend order my favorite, the chicken and waffles, while I was adventurous and tried something new, the huevos rancheros. Both of us sprung for a side of pepper bacon.

As always, the chicken and waffles were exceptional. The fried chicken was an excellent savory complement to the sweet waffle. My advice, when you get your plate, lift off the chicken and slather the waffle with praline butter. Pour on some syrup, put the chicken back on top and chow down. The order is a little pricey at $15, but it comes with enough food that I'd be surprised if you were hungry for dinner.

The huevos rancheros, on the other hand, were a bit disappointing. For $13, I received a small, somewhat bland meal. Though the food was well-presented and appealing to the eye, the only flavor that stood out among the fried egg, refried beans, corn tortilla and avocado was the chipotle salsa. This spicy salsa gave the otherwise boring food some pop. I only wish the meal had come with tortilla chips to top with leftovers.

Both meals came with fruit or breakfast potatoes. The fruit is fresh and tasty, though a bit heavy on melon, and is a healthy alternative to the potatoes. Those unworried about their waistline should spring for the potatoes, which are well-seasoned and perfectly cooked.

THE SERVICE

We were seated quickly, and our servers were pleasant and attentive enough. If anything, the wait staff was forgettable, which really is a compliment to their ability to effectively do their jobs without interrupting a meal.

Though the restaurant was busy, we received our food fairly quickly. It was nice and hot, seemingly fresh out of the oven.

THE SPACE

The Knitting Mill building that houses FoodWorks has an old factory feel to it. The exposed brick and wide-open space gives a unique atmosphere.

The most remarkable feature of FoodWorks' space is its size. The massive two-floor restaurant can be full and busy, but diners never feel crowded together. Outdoor seating is available on a small patio.

THE VERDICT

The price will keep FoodWorks from becoming a weekly spot for most people, but if you're looking for a top-notch, relaxing brunch, look no further than FoodWorks.

Contact Carey O'Neil at coneil@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6525. Follow him at twitter.com/careyoneil.

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