Where: Chicken Salad Chick, 629 Market St.
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
Price range: 99 cents for chips or a cookie to $9.99 for chicken salad by the pound.
Finding a fresh, quick lunch downtown can be a challenge during the week, but new additions to the lunch scene offer hope for those looking for a meal on the run.
The most recent option arrived this month with the opening of Chicken Salad Chick at the corner of Seventh and Market streets.
The name says it all. Chicken Salad Chick celebrates the Southern staple that is chicken salad.
Stacy M. Brown began perfecting her chicken salad recipe at her home in Auburn, Ala., and from those humble beginnings Chicken Salad Chick was born. The Chattanooga location, the first in Tennessee, brings the number of franchises to 19, with others in Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.
The concept behind Chicken Salad Chick is simple: chicken salad.
The menu features 15 varieties starting with Brown's original recipe, the Classic Carol, and ranging from barbecue varieties to recipes that feature pineapple, jalapeno peppers, bacon and cranberries. All can be purchased by the scoop, on a sandwich or by the pound for takeout.
There are other options as well, with a pimento cheese recipe, a soup of the day, four deli-style sandwiches and cookies for dessert. There are also sides such as chips, fruit and pasta, broccoli and grape salads.
I have a confession. Growing up, I never cared that much for mayonnaise - a big part of what goes into chicken salad.
But when you go to a restaurant called Chicken Salad Chick, you're gonna have to try the chicken salad. And honestly, the menu features some varieties intriguing even to someone who's not a fan of chicken salad.
I ordered the soup-and-sandwich special - a cup of a chicken and rice soup with half a sandwich and added a side of pasta salad. The soup was adequate, the pasta fresh and tasty.
For my sandwich, I went with the Jazzy Julie chicken salad with cayenne pepper, bacon and shredded cheddar cheese on sourdough bread. Here's the surprise: I actually liked it!
The cayenne added a kick that made it more interesting and I found myself enjoying something that I had spent most of my life avoiding, so score one for Chicken Salad Chick.
I arrived just after noon on a Thursday, and there was a line out the door, not surprising for a newly open restaurant downtown. The line moved quickly, and my food arrived faster than I expected.
Prompt service is important for downtown workers trying to eat and get back to work, and you have to give the staff credit for keeping things moving despite a rush of people.
In addition, the staff was friendly, and they worked quickly to clean tables after customers departed so that the next group of diners could quickly find a place to eat.
The restaurant's large windows and brightly colored walls give Chicken Salad Chick an open and airy feeling. There is plenty of seating in the restaurant and even a few small tables on the sidewalk for folks to get some fresh air with their lunch.
One thing was noticeable and interesting. The customer base on my visit skewed heavily female. Apparently it isn't called Chicken Salad Chick for nothing.
Perhaps women are more likely to enjoy chicken salad, or maybe men are more likely to want a heavier meal at lunch. Whatever the reason, it certainly wasn't hurting business in the first weeks since Chicken Salad Chick's arrival in Chattanooga. Maybe the women in town will convince the guys to give it a shot in coming weeks.
Chicken Salad Chick faced a skeptical customer in me. I wasn't a fan of their signature item and was wary going in.
But the spicier and more flavorful variety of chicken salad was really quite good, and I enjoyed my meal more than I thought I would.
The are other flavors of chicken salad on the menu that look interesting (the Barbie-Q and Jalapeno Holly have potential), and I'd like to try the pimento cheese as well. If the deli sandwiches (turkey hoagie, Cajun roast beef, Virginia ham and pimento cheese) are as fresh as everything else, that could be worth trying as well.
With springtime here for good, it's nice to have some lighter lunch options. Chicken Salad Chick gives customers a fresh meal that's quick and tasty.
If they can get me to enjoy a chicken salad sandwich, they must be doing something right.
Contact Jim Tanner at email@example.com or 423-757-6478.