• Fork & Pie -- Savory pies made from local ingredients, open now
• Market Street Tavern -- The pub is moving to the 800 block within three weeks
• Oyé -- This Cuban restaurant opens in the Fall
• Community Pie -- Pizza concept from Urban Stack owners opening in Miller Plaza in early 2013
Source: River City Co.
The heart of Chattanooga will soon boast three new restaurants on the 800 block of Market Street, as part of a plan by River City Co. to reanimate the city's lagging urban core.
Friday's opening of Fork & Pie, the area's newest purveyor of savory treats, was the first volley in the strategy to fill Chattanooga's central business district with new restaurants and retail space, said Kim White, president of River City Co.
The three new eateries and one renovated restaurant will expand the city's central entertainment district north toward the River from Miller Plaza, she said.
"It takes a focus on filling out the small spaces to make sure there's something for everybody there," White said.
Fork & Pie offers pies with ingredients from Crabtree Farms, Sweetwater Cheese, Link 41, Signal Mountain Farms, Eagle's Nest Ranch and others. It's a place where "pie is every option on the menu," other than beer, liquor and milk, said Michael Robinson, co-owner.
The downtown shuffle also includes relocating Market Street Tavern across the street and adding a new restaurant next door called Oyé said White. Mike Monen, who with his wife Taylor runs Urban Stack and Taco Mamacita, will fill the former Market Street Tavern space in Miller Plaza with a new pizza concept he will call Community Pie, specializing in artesian pizza, craft beer and gelatto.
"A lot of it is River City's vision," Monen said. "This is really the center of the city, and it should feel like it."
River City hopes to continue filling in empty spaces on Market Street with retail, residential and dining, in a concerted effort to broaden opportunities for tourists and locals alike, said Lisa Flint, vice president of marketing.
"Downtown was a booming retail destination for many years, then went into decline," Flint said. "Right now, city center is the gap we're trying to fill."
Chef Aaron Long said he relishes the chance to build his vision for Market Street Tavern at a new location.
"We had an opportunity to take the space to the next level, so we took it," he said. "We inherited our original space, which had been multiple restaurants, so we're getting to start fresh."
Market Street Tavern's new location will feature "a lot more wood" when it opens in three weeks, he said, and will more closely resemble the downtown pub he always wanted.
"From a tourist standpoint, people aren't sure where to go from Miller Plaza right now," Long said. "This will help us fill in from the Northshore to the Southside."
By far, the freshest arrival comes courtesy of Brittany Alcala, a Miami-native who believes her new Cuban restaurant will bring a new taste to the local smorgasbord.
"Oyé will be Authentic Cuban food with small plates and sandwiches, music and entertainment," Alcala said. "Upstairs we're having a walk-in cigar lounge, and a second bar."
Alcala is gutting a former nightclub in preparation for a Fall opening, when she tentatively planning to open "El Jefe Cigars" on the upper floor alongside the downstairs restaurant.
"Downstairs is going to be totally, totally different," she said.
Life jazz music will filter out onto the street in the evening during the week, she said, along with classic R&B and classic rock on weekends.
Blair Waddell, retail recruiter for River City Co., said the non-profit developer would support the new restaurants with additional events and fresh retail nearby.
"Our strategy is to refill the city center," Waddell said. "So far, we have been blessed."