Where: Porter's Steakhouse: 827 Broad St.
Hours: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.
Price range (lunch): $8 (Bleu Cheese Portobello Burger)-$16 (Our Famous Pepperloin Sandwich).
Alcohol: Full bar, including a wide selection of wines.
Every city has "that steakhouse," and usually it is the scene for graduation celebrations, wedding engagements or business dinners.
Porter's Steakhouse is that place in downtown Chattanooga, and, so far, no personal milestone has justified my visit to the restaurant. But the budget-friendly lunch menu has changed that.
Dinner at this Sheraton Read House restaurant could easily set you back $75 to $100 a person, but lunch is a different story. The restaurant promises lighter fare, more affordable prices and quick, 30-minute service for midday diners.
On a recent visit, I put the staff to test, and I was pleased with just about every aspect of my experience.
Lunchtime prices range from $8 to $16 for an entree and a side.
There aren't any big steaks (though I'm sure the chef could pull one out if asked), but there are plenty of salads, sandwiches and burgers on the menu. For the price, you get the cloth-napkin-and-dinner-roll treatment you might expect from a classy steakhouse.
Porter's is home to the Pepperloin, a tender cut of beef, rolled in a peppercorn blend and roasted for 72 hours. That item is not on the lunch menu, but a Pepperloin Sandwich ($16) is featured prominently, so I figured I should give the staple a try.
The sandwich, served with fresh fries and a house-made steak sauce, had a hint of spice, but it wasn't overwhelming. The sandwich is served plain on a hoagie bun. The bread is tender, and the meat is butter soft and juicy.
I started the meal with the Soup of the Day, which was chicken and wild rice ($3.50). Porter's didn't disappoint here, either. There was a healthy serving of chicken and veggies in a flavorful broth.
Don't think of Porter's as just a place for meat. There are a handful of salads, including a tasty-looking Blackened Yellow Fin Tuna Loin Salad ($12), over which I heard nearby diners raving.
I came to Porter's to test their "lunch served in 30 minutes" claim, and they beat their own estimate.
My server, Byron, had my entree on the table in less than 15 minutes, and since I was eating solo and on a quick lunch between assignments, I managed to wrap up the whole experience in under 40 minutes.
The servers are friendly, and Byron was very knowledgeable and kept my glass filled to the rim with sweet tea.
Porter's underwent a renovation in 2010 and reopened with a refreshed atmosphere. Hardwood floors and a pressed-tin ceiling mesh well with the linen tablecloths, fancy stemware and full settings of flatware.
Big windows look out onto Broad Street and M.L. King Boulevard, which are perfect for people-watching.
"That steakhouse" usually proves be a downtown staple because it provides consistently good food, solid atmosphere and superb service. Now I know why Porter's has been successful in Chattanooga.
The staff provides prompt service, the atmosphere is elegant without being stuffy, and though the price range is high for some items, it's not a budget-buster if you go at lunch.
I recommend Porter's for lunch, for cocktails or dessert, and if you need to do some wheeling and dealing or celebrate a milestone, Porter's deserves its spot on your list of special-occasion restaurants.