› Where: Edley’s Bar-B-Que, 205 Manufacturers Rd., Suite 110
› Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday
› Entree price range: $8.50-$23
› Alcohol: Full bar
› Phone: 423-498-2772
› Website: edleysbbq.com/chattanooga
Given an opportunity, I'm unlikely to pass on the chance to try a new barbecue restaurant. Few food choices bring the sort of instant gratification I feel when sitting down to a plate of expertly smoked barbecue and a cold beer.
The Chattanooga area boasts several top-notch purveyors of this culinary art form, and I visit them on a fairly regular basis, but there's always room for one more in my book. Enter one of the more recent additions to Chattanooga's food scene: Edley's Bar-B-Que. This family-owned outfit originated in Nashville in 2009 and now includes three locations in metro Nashville, one in Lexington, Ky., and the Chattanooga location, which opened in October.
Edley's slogan is "A tribute to all things Southern." I found this to be deliciously accurate when I stopped by on a recent afternoon. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say.
Housed in the former Knitting Mill Antiques building on Chattanooga's North Shore, Edley's exudes a rustic, folksy charm.
The first thing you'll notice, aside from the massive brick facade, is an expansive front porch with lots of tables and umbrellas and a huge stack of wood for the smoker. Many more tables (navigating could be a bit difficult at peak volume times) crowd the low-lit interior, and there's a good-sized bar in the corner adjacent to the porch. Distressed wood columns dot the room, and random pieces of folk art and Southern cultural artifacts adorn the walls here and there.
Barbecue anchors the menu, of course, but the breadth of offerings is impressive. Pulled pork, beef brisket, ribs — Edley's does it all. You can order most of these as platters, sandwiches or tacos and they come with two sides.
Hot chicken, shrimp and catfish dishes are also on the menu. The restaurant has eight to 10 sides available each day including standbys like potato salad, cole slaw and mac 'n' cheese but they also mix it up with seasonal items.
I was disappointed that the coveted Burnt Ends were already sold out by the time I got there, so I opted to try the BBQ Nachos appetizer topped with beef brisket ($10) and the pork platter ($10).
The nachos consisted of a generous plate of thick, kettle-cooked potato chips topped with a good amount of moist and tender brisket, sweet red sauce, tomatoes, sour cream and scallions. Not only did it taste great but this substantial appetizer could really make a meal for two people.
The pork platter was as succulent as any barbecue I've had and then some. Edley's pitmasters are barbecue traditionalists, utilizing low and slow smoking with White Oak wood to fully realize the flavor of the meat, and you can really taste it. The pork's intermingling of smoky flavor with the red sauce was pure gold.
The sides I chose — mac 'n' cheese and black-eyed peas — were mostly good but not on par with the pork. The black-eyed peas had a nice, subtle flavor, yet the mac 'n' cheese was bland. I don't see how the sweet cornbread that rounded out the platter could have been any better unless they gave you a second piece.
Eating barbecue requires something cold to wash it all down and, while I was tempted to order a Yazoo draft or one of the other craft brews on tap, I wanted to check out some of the bar's specialty cocktails.
First up was a half Bushwacker cocktail ($5), which is kind of Edley's signature drink and served in a Mason jar, as are all of their drinks. A Bushwacker is like an alcohol-laden milkshake that's mixed with a complex recipe that typically includes rum, vodka, Irish cream, creme de cacao, amaretto and coffee liqueur. I liked the Bushwacker, but it's really more of a dessert-type drink in my opinion, so I set that aside and ordered the Bourbon Tea ($9), which contains Evan Williams bourbon, citrus, pineapple, tea and lemonade mixed with torn mint leaves. This drink offered real refreshment with a kick, and I will definitely be ordering one next time.
There are two ways to order food at Edley's. Grab a menu and check out the day's specials at the back counter before placing your order, or you can order food as well as drinks at the bar.
After placing my order at the counter, I decided the porch was a bit too crowded and the sun too bright to my liking, so I found a spot at the bar. I didn't catch the bartender's name, but he was friendly, made some small talk and didn't make me wait that long as I sampled some of the bar's specialties. Even though the place was busier than I anticipated for a late Sunday afternoon, the food arrived fast and at the right temperature for maximum enjoyment.
You don't keep five restaurants in operation without the goods to back it up. Whatever expectations I might have had about Edley's were exceeded. Great food, great presentation, great prices — it really doesn't get much better than that.
Contact Chris Zelk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 757-6244.