When I first signed up to do food reviews, I was hoping to find special, out-of-the-way restaurants where the chefs cared as much about preparing the food as I did about eating it. After visiting the Pigeon Mountain Country Store, I'm one for one.
The store, which opened in the fall, specializes in views and 'cue but also features locally raised, grass-fed longhorn beef burgers, ribs, Abita root beer on tap and excellent soups.
Located about 30 minutes from downtown Chattanooga at the intersection of highways 193 and 341, the trip is half the experience, with serene views of Lookout and Pigeon mountains and pastoral farmland. On the way back home, my wife and I had to stop to let two horses get out of the road. It's certainly enough of a trip to work up an appetite.
The Country Store doesn't do everything, but what it does, it does right. Diners can choose from burgers ($6.50 for bacon, cheese and two sides), barbecue, grilled cheese, ham sandwiches ($4.50) and chicken salad ($3.50). They smoke ribs for Fridays and Saturdays ($8.50 for half slab and sides).
I ordered the barbecue pork plate ($6) with baked beans and vegetable beef soup. Immediately I was pleased that the meat was not slathered in sauce. To me, any restaurant that bathes its pork in sauce is covering something up.
The meat was obviously hand-pulled without the fat and gristle you get from chopping up the whole shoulder. It could have been smokier, but it had a good taste and was very moist. Overall, it was some of the best pork I've had in the area. The sauce was tangy with a whiskey kick. When I asked, the chef revealed he used Maker's Mark.
Vegetable beef was the soup of the day ($2.75/pint). The first half of my cup was excellent, but I can't tell you about the bottom half because once my wife tried it and discovered it was just like her grandmother's recipe, I didn't get it back.
I sampled her cheeseburger and thought it was lean, firm and flavorful with good toppings and bun.
For dessert we had lemon chess bars and a chocolate-chocolate cookie. We found both to be a little dense and hard, which could be from refrigeration.
* Where: Pigeon Mountain Country Store, intersection of Georgia highways 193 and 341.
* Phone: 706-539-2999.
* Hours: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
* Price range: $1.95 grilled cheese to $7.50 bacon cheeseburger plate.
* Alcohol: No.
We were the only customers in the store when we went on a Tuesday night. We ordered at a counter, but the cook brought us our food. My glass of sweet tea went empty and after a few minutes I went to the counter for a refill myself. I'm not sure if that's how the service works, or if they just didn't notice the glass was empty.
The night we went, the root beer keg had run dry, which was a disappointment.
The newly built farm-style building is not very big, and half of it is used as a store. They sell cold bottled drinks as well as snacks and trinkets. My wife bought a beaded bracelet for $6.50. Many of the items have a retro theme -- think of a smaller, mom-and-pop Cracker Barrel. There are only four or five tables.
The country style, like the red and white valances, cow skull and a stack of books for swapping, is nice, but the best part of the space is the scenery. We ate looking out the window at Pigeon Mountain and a sunset sky.
Even though it's a ways from town, the Pigeon Mountain Country Store is worth a visit for its barbecue and burgers. Actually, the fact that it is far from town is part of the allure. Serious barbecue eaters will not be disappointed. Head to the store if you are out for a Saturday afternoon drive, hiking around Lookout Mountain near High Point or just need an excuse to explore the backroads.