published Friday, August 9th, 2013

Universal Joint serving up dishes

The Universal Joint in downtown Chattanooga is open for business.
The Universal Joint in downtown Chattanooga is open for business.
Photo by Angela Lewis.
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An old service station started a new life as a restaurant and bar this week at the corner of Vine Street and Georgia Avenue in Chattanooga.

Universal Joint opened Tuesday night and dished up its first lunches Wednesday, serving burgers, salads, tacos, quesadillas, sandwiches and bar snacks.

Owner Sean Corley and partners spent about $1 million to buy and renovate the space, previously Farrows Service Center. The interior features the original stucco ceiling, which is chipped and peeling, as well as a display of oil cans, a car door and other nods to the building’s history.

“It’s a restaurant, but it’s been a garage since the 1930s,” Corley said. “We wanted to remind people of that.”

The rustic space will seat about 65 people inside and another 50 in the outdoor patio, which faces Fountain Square and the Hamilton County Courthouse. The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. every day except Sunday, when it will open at noon. Although, Corely added, the hours may shift depending on demand.

“We want to cater to everyone,” Corley said. “We don’t want to be just a college bar or a dive bar, we want everybody, any age, to enjoy eating here.”

So far, business has been good, Corley said, adding that his staff of 30 is still learning the ropes. While tourists are welcome, he hopes the core of the restaurant’s customers will be neighborhood regulars.

Locals Kurt McKibben and Matt Siano shared the BBQ Brisket Nachos and a couple beers Thursday afternoon and were impressed with the dish.

“It different,” Siano said. “It’s even got some spice in it, which is awesome. And that’s coming from two people from Memphis — we’re picky about our BBQ.”

McKibben said he decided to try the restaurant out as soon as the doors open because he watched as the vacant building was transformed.

“It always used to have old parked cars in front of it, and then all the sudden it started to become something,” he said, adding, “I really like the atmosphere. The location is great, but I also like the vibe. It’s got a lot of potential.”

Universal Joint also operates restaurants in Atlanta, Asheville, N.C., and Clayton, Ga.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at sbradbury@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6525.

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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