Vine Street Market sits on a side street in Riverview, a small wood-frame house transformed into a gem of a restaurant.
It may seem strange that the side street isn't Vine Street, the restaurant's original location near the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga when it opened in 1979. Instead, it's Hanover Street, where the restaurant relocated in 1999.
Over the years, Vine Street Market has become known for a mouthwatering menu of casseroles, sandwiches, homemade bread, desserts and its signature mint tea.
The cottage setting in Riverview offers quaint surroundings for dining in or taking out.
Where: Vine Street Market, 1313 Hanover St.
Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.
Price range: $3.59 for a daily soup, served with bread to $9.49 for a casserole dinner.
Entrees typically include chicken enchilada casserole or chicken broccoli casserole with tossed salad and roll ($9.49).
The salad selections start with the basics: chef, Greek, tuna and chicken served with bread ($7.99) or two sides ($9.49). There's also a spring salad that consists of Romaine lettuce, strawberries, red grapes, walnuts and crumbled blue cheese, served with a balsamic vinaigrette ($8.99) and a Southwestern salad, a combination of Romaine, tomatoes, black beans, roasted corn, grated cheddar, red and green peppers, grilled chicken and Southwestern ranch dressing or balsamic vinaigrette ($8.99).
A daily soup, served with bread, is served in portions of 9 ounces ($3.59) and 12 ounces ($4.49). The soup of the day when I visited was cream of tomato basil.
Customers may create their own sandwiches ($6.59), served with chips, pretzels or pickle spear. There are seven meat choices: maple-glazed turkey, Salsalito turkey, Cajun-smoked turkey breast, Cajun roast beef, honey maple ham, oven-roasted turkey and corned beef. Six cheese choices are havarti, colby, Swiss, provolone, jalapeno havarti and smoked cheddar. And four bread choices: homemade sourdough, homemade honey wheat, rye and pumpernickel.
The regular sandwich menu has nine additional selections, including a veggie sandwich, Reuben and tuna melt. Most are priced at $6.99.
Side dishes are subject to season and rotation. The main choices are pasta salad, potato salad, fruit salad, deviled eggs, Waldorf salad, broccoli salad and cucumber/tomato salad.
Beverages include fountain drinks and Cokes in glass bottles, cappuccino and espresso, and sweet or unsweetened tea in addition to the flavored teas (mint and cranberry).
The homemade desserts include a range of cakes, pies, cookies, cupcakes and brownies.
The restaurant also offers catering services, and delivery is available with orders of 10 or more with a 24-hour notice.
I ordered the chicken broccoli casserole with tossed salad and bread.
The portion sizes were perfect, not too large and not too small. You won't walk away feeling hungry or stuffed.
The casserole was incredible. Served separately in a baking dish, it was fresh, hot and tasty. The side salad was crisp and fresh, with tomatoes and onions. The homemade roll was hot and served with real butter (yum).
My friend ordered the chive turkey sandwich and gave it a thumbs-up. She described it as "incredible with tender turkey, and the homemade chive butter was a standout."
If I were stranded on a deserted island, my beverage of choice would be Vine Street Market's mint tea. I first had it in the mid-1980s -- my first experience with flavored tea -- and I was hooked. If you dine in, you get free refills, and they'll give you a to-go cup if you ask.
Service is walk-up. You order and pay at the cash register and seat yourself if you're dining in. My friend and I sat outside and were served in about five minutes. The wait staff made sure we had what we needed, including several tea refills.
The house is a small cottage. There are several tables, but many customers order to-go meals because of the limited space. We ate at one of several tables in the front yard.
The weather was sunny but a little cool. The staff didn't mind when we moved our table a couple of times to stay in the sunshine.
I am embarrassed to say that I was a regular customer at Vine Street Market when it was on Vine Street. A co-worker and I ate there for lunch at least once a week for years, but I had never tried the Riverview location. For whatever reason, I thought it wasn't the same restaurant. I was wrong, and I'm pretty mad at myself for my ignorance.
I will definitely go back, and the Vine Street Market is on the top of my list as one of my favorite restaurants in town.