Unique Chattanooga restaurant is finalist for architectural award

Unique Chattanooga restaurant is finalist for architectural award

May 13th, 2015 by Mitra Malek in Business Around the Region

The Flying Squirrel, the Chattanooga eatery whose broad glass face stands under a sweeping metal roof, is vying for a top spot in an architectural contest sponsored by the Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

The Southside restaurant is among six finalists looking to be named the best-designed café and bar in the Restaurant Design Awards, by a vote of the public. Last year's "People's Choice Award Winner" was Café Saul. E Mendez in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

Cast your ballot

The Flying Squirrel is competing for the "People's Choice Award Winner" in the category of café and bar for the Restaurant Design Awards, sponsored by the Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Cast your ballot here.

The Flying Squirrel is just off Main Street in Southside Chattanooga.

The Flying Squirrel is just off Main Street...

Photo by Logan Foll /Times Free Press.

The Flying Squirrel cost about $1.5 million to build, according to Max Poppel, who owns it along with Dan Rose. The duo also own The Crash Pad, a LEED-certified hostel that caters to outdoor athletes and often wins accolades from travel organizations and media beyond the region.

Designed by Palmer Built Environments and Haskel Sears Design, the restaurant's interior includes giant cedar beams from an old local knitting mill and reclaimed wood from a barn. The long bar opens to the outside.

Poppel and Rose opened the Flying Squirrel two years ago, intent on becoming "the local neighborhood restaurant the dying breed of establishment where you go to socialize," Poppel said. The eatery has no televisions, which are ubiquitous these days even in high-end restaurants.

"We're really all about fostering conversation," Poppel said.

And, of course, having good food, he said. The Flying Squirrel, which is open only those 21 years of age and older except for Sunday brunch, started with small plates and has expanded to offer a full menu that focuses on local sourcing. Executive chef is Philippe Van Grit has been with the restaurant since it opened.

Voting is open now and ends at noon on May 28. Winners will be announced at the Dwell on Design awards ceremony in California on May 30. This is the first year the Flying Squirrel has entered the contest, Poppel said.

The Flying Squirrel is up against eating establishments from the western half of the nation: Prova Pizzeria in West Hollywood, Calif.; Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle; Magnolia House in Pasadena, Calif.; Idle Hour in Los Angeles; and Verve Coffee + Juice Served Here in Los Angeles.

A jury of architectural experts selected the finalists: publisher Christopher Gialanella of Angeleno and Interiors California Magazines, architect Andre Kikoski and restaurateur/architect Bryan Libit of Stir Market in Los Angeles. The Restaurant Design Awards also could give the Flying Squirrel the top café and bar title, as decided by the jury.

The contest wasn't limited to the United States, though all the entries had to either be located in the U.S. or the entity submitting the entry for consideration had to be U.S.-based. The competition had 27 entries for the café and bar category, according to a spokeswoman for the AIA. The awards have two categories in addition to café and bar: lounge/nightclub and restaurant.

Contact staff writer Mitra Malek at mmalek@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter @MitraMalek.