We tend to return to the restaurants that have served up some of our best culinary experiences. Whether it's a meal enjoyed on a special occasion or a meal so good it became a special occasion, our outings to area restaurants later can trigger some of our most powerful nostalgia trips. How sad then that some of our favorite places to dine exist only in our memories.
For instance, there are moments when I wish I could bite into the Lookout Mountain pizza from Piza Pizza. And my mouth can't help but water when I remember the great burgers I once enjoyed at George's downtown.
I remember dates I had in my teenage years at Bethea's in Brainerd. The owners would set up charge accounts for McCallie boarding students, so one of my favorite boyfriends and I would eat there often. I loved the fried chicken. But all that came to an end when his parents called and told the Betheas to stop issuing their son any more credit. It was nice while it lasted, though.
Here are others that take me down memory lane and make me wish I could go back in time just once and eat my way across town.
Rumor had it that Jolly Ox was a pseudonym for owner Steak and Ale. At the time, I've been told, Chattanooga law prohibited any reference to alcohol in a restaurant's name. But the real emphasis was on mouthwatering steaks. There was a very good salad bar too, as I recall. Back in
the the mid-1970s, it was one of few places in town where a guy could take a date to really impress her, which happened to me a few times.
Shakey's was the first chain pizza parlor in the Scenic City. This was back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and folks came in droves. It was a new experience for Chattanoogans, who could sit at the long tables and enjoy this great new taste. I loved it. These days, with so many topping options, I can appreciate the simplicity of Shakey's pizza. Shakey's still exists in other cities, but the closest is in Auburn, Ala.
The original Loft, before it burned and was rebuilt, was the coolest restaurant to open in Chattanooga in the 1970s. One might think of it as the cornerstone for growth along the North Shore, though it took a few decades for other restaurateurs to take note. I'll never forget the salad bar and French onion soup. Both were incredible. And the filet? Mouthwatering.
The Brass Register was the meeting place. During the day, it was a popular spot for everything from ladies' luncheons to business meetings. In the evenings, it turned over to the beer-drinking, burger-devouring crowd. The BR burgers were out of this world; nothing compared. And the potato chips were like none we'd ever experienced - they were homemade, cooked a little darker, all different shapes and full of flavor.
Mr. Fifteen had, hands-down, the best fries in town. Long before McDonald's and Burger King proliferated, Mr. Fifteen was churning out those long skinny fries like they were coming straight from the potato patch. They had some competition from Krystal when it came to burgers, but not french fries. I don't know what happened, but by the 1970s, the countdown for Mr. Fifteen's demise had begun.
The Green Room at the Read House was one of those extra-special places where you went when expert service and superior food were on the night's agenda. I'll never forget one of the most romantic meals of my life was spent over an excellent bottle of wine and some of the best lamb chops I've ever put in my mouth.
Though I only visited Eidson's a couple of times, the home-cooked meat and veggies reminded me of my Grandma's. The baked squash was outstanding. What's so disappointing about its closing, though, is that it was an East Ridge institution for 56 years before it closed last month.
The original Town and Country, located at the corner of Frazier Avenue and North Market Street, is the best memory-maker for my husband and myself. Tom ate there growing up and constantly asks me to make the au jus for beef and the bleu cheese dressing for salads. Luckily, I was able to find a cookbook containing those recipes before the restaurant closed. For me, it was a meeting place for friends talking about event planning, enjoying some afternoon cocktails and some of the best home cooking in town. And less I forget, my favorite server, Mary Burton
We want to hear from you. Let us know which restaurant you miss. E-mail Anne Braly at email@example.com.