Southern coastal flavor in St. Elmo

Southern coastal flavor in St. Elmo

April 19th, 2013 by Shelly Bradbury in Business Around the Region

James Moore hammers on a brick wall while working on what will become 1885 Grill in the former Blacksmith's Bistro in St. Elmo.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

The dusty construction workers swing sledgehammers at the 23-inch brick wall and with each collision the bricks crumble, opening a bigger hole in the side of the building.

A few feet away, Miguel Morales watches with his feet spread, arms crossed, a huge grin on his face.

"I've dreamt of this for so many years," he says, shaking his head.

The bricks crumbled at 3914 St. Elmo Ave., where Morales is opening a fresh seafood restaurant: 1885 Grill.

He and business partner Dustin Choate, who owns Tremont Tavern, will occupy the space recently vacated by Blacksmith's Bistro and Grill, which moved from St. Elmo to downtown Chattanooga.

And they couldn't be more excited.

"I've been drawing this theme in notebooks for 15 years," Morales said. The sit-down restaurant will have a Southern coastal theme -- Morales grew up in South Carolina -- and will serve all sorts of seafood, sandwiches and sides, ranging from $20 fresh-grilled fish filets to $8 appetizers and sides such as roasted corn or collard greens.

Workers knocked the giant hole in the wall to install a garage-style patio door, which will connect to 1885 Grill's indoor seating and full-service bar.

Morales also knocked out several walls to add additional seating in the back of the restaurant, where the atmosphere will be a bit quieter than in the main area and a long window will let guests peek into the kitchen. In all, the restaurant will start out seating about 100 people, with room to expand.

The two plan to open in early June and will hire about 20 employees. Morales and Choate want the St. Elmo community to shape both the restaurant's menu and hours.

"We're not saying a closing time -- we're thinking 11 p.m. or so -- but as long as the neighborhood is here wanting to eat and drink, we'll be here to serve them," Morales said. "We really want to be here for them and let them tell us what they want. And we'll be more than happy to do just that."

Morales has lived in St. Elmo for five years and said he hopes 1885 Grill -- so named because 1885 was the year St. Elmo was founded -- will become an anchor in the neighborhood.

"We're in for the long haul," he said. "We have a 10-year plan for this place."

He and Choate have invested $300,000 to move the restaurant from notebooks to reality. The pair have been friends for a long time, Choate said.

"This is where it all begins," he said. "We'll partner up here and get this baby going, and then whatever the future brings, the future brings. There could be some other projects down the road."

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