published Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

City Beat: More ethnic restaurants on 2014 wish list

Obviously, the need for food is something we all have in common. We do not, however, all share the same likes and dislikes when it comes to dining, and that’s a good thing. If we all liked the same things, I might have to wait in line longer to eat, and nobody wants that.

We’ve seen several trends, as well as establishments, come and go in the previous 12 months. Predicting what will happen in the next 12 is an impossible task, so I won’t even pretend. I can say that if you suddenly see me in your place a lot, be nervous. My track record for picking a regular, go-to place, only to have it close up, is pretty solid. Learning last week that Steelpan, the little Caribbean restaurant on Houston Street, has closed — hopefully, it will reopen — broke my heart.

In looking back at last year, I would say there are several trends worth noting. The appetite for food trucks continues to grow, as does the desire for locally harvested meats and produce. Whether we are buying it for ourselves at one of the many markets or ordering it off the menu at one of the several area restaurants that feature local foods, people are demanding fresh and local.

In talking to industry people from around the country, we are well ahead of most cities in this regard.

We are also more willing than ever before to try something different. That is a very good thing. Some of us old-timers were remembering the other day when The Loft was considered among the very best places in town to eat. No disrespect to Hamid Andalib and his staff there, but it was a meat-and-two place that hardly pushed many envelopes. You knew what you were getting, and people loved it that way.

Today, we are a city of foodies who want to try something different, and actually finding a good meat-and-two is kind of harder to do than it used to be.

I’m also glad to see that we have finally come to realize that not every Mexican food place has to offer chips and salsa or that each dish on the menu isn’t supposed to taste like a crunchy taco. And, in fact, that not all tacos have to be crunchy or be filled with beef.

On my wish list of things I’d like to see happen in 2014 are an increase in the number and types of true ethnic places and the addition of a great pizza place. While we are more willing these days to try an ethnic place, we seem to demand that it be somewhat Americanized.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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