Beginning in July 2008, food writer Anne Braly and I began exploring the lunchtime offerings around Chattanooga and sharing our findings with readers on the first Tuesday of each month in the Life section.
As a lifelong Chattanoogan, Anne got to check out some of the new places in town and to revisit some of her old favorites. For me, the newcomer, it was a chance to see what Chattanooga has to offer.
Some places were upscale, some were down-home, and others weren't much of anything to get excited about. We learned where the atmosphere outshines the food, why simple can be perfect and which chefs around town are willing to get creative.
For now, here is the Best of Out to Lunch thus far. I think there's a little something for everyone.
6 14th St. (beside Chattanooga Choo Choo). Phone: 752-8090. Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight seven days a week.
The specialties of a brewhouse lie in the name, but Terminal goes beyond the beer and provides food selections that are a step above the pub. The menu features soup, salads, pizza, sandwiches and entrees. The food highlights a melange of flavors, such as the FruFru sandwich, which features grilled chicken, pears, crisp bacon and Brie. Burgers are available in beef, bison or veggie varieties. Wash it all down from a selection of six on-site brewed beers.
34 Frazier Ave. Phone: 475-6175. Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. every day. Web site: www. eatatgooddog.com.
Not just for hot-dog lovers, Good Dog features a whimsical atmosphere and an entire menu page of creatively adorned salads. There are also build-your-own options available, of both salads and dogs (all-beef or veggie, your choice). Be sure to save room (and calories) for twice-fried Belgian-style frites and Good Dog's signature "cupped" cakes, for a sweet, but not too sweet, finish.
301 Manufacturers Road. Hours: 7 a.m.-9 p.m. seven days a week. Phone: 702-7300.
Without perpetuating the misconception that organic, natural and vegetarian are necessarily synonymous with less caloric, one thing you won't be pumped full of at Greenlife is chemicals. Even after the business was purchased by Whole Foods last year, head chef Charles Loomis and his staff are keeping their individual mark on the North Shore, creating clean, creatively prepared foods with plenty of options for vegheads and meat freaks alike.
232 E. 11th St. (corner of 11th and Houston streets). Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. (lunch) and 5-10 p.m. (dinner) Monday-Saturday (bar open late). Phone: 756-8253.
If you are on a limited budget, Table 2 is not the place for a daily, or even weekly, work lunch, but for a special occasion or if your boss is breathing down your neck and you need the meal equivalent of a Swedish massage, it's great for a splurge meal. Featuring unusual selections such as phyllo dough quesadillas filled with chevre and mango, or twists on traditional fare, such as shrimp and grits made with polenta, pancetta and sweet peppers, Table 2 is ideal for lunchtime indulgence.
417 Market St., 266-2253; 620 Northgate Mall, 877-0223; 1810 Gunbarrel Road, 899-2253; 2620 Battlefield Parkway, Fort Oglethorpe, 706-866-2293; 375 Paul Huff Parkway, N.W., Cleveland, Tenn., 423-472-5444; 303 W. Walnut Ave., Dalton, Ga., 706-260-2624. Hours: 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday (Market Street and Fort Oglethorpe stores close one hour earlier).
A pox on those who turn up their noses at Panera for being a chain. The locations are always bright and clean, and the food is tasty, with a healthful bent. For a quick meal, Panera takes about the same amount of time as any fast-food restaurant and is far more nutritious. Try combining a cup of low-fat vegetarian black-bean soup with half a Thai chopped chicken salad for a satisfying lunch. There's also plenty of seating and free Wi-Fi.
The Blue Plate
191 Chestnut St. Phone: 648-6767. Hours: 8:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
With an old-school diner spirit and a contemporary bright ambiance, The Blue Plate is great for a fun, relaxed meal. The menu includes breakfast, in the form of omelets and pancakes, and lunch and dinner options. Try the hand-dipped buttermilk fried chicken or tasty fish tacos with corn relish and fresh avocado cream. For diners looking for lighter fare, try the spinach salad. Blue Plates (with two sides) range from meatloaf ($12.50) to ribeye ($18). It's fun dining for family and friends.
The English Rose
1401 Market St. Phone: 265-5900. Hours: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday (gift shop open until 6 p.m.)
If a trip to England isn't in the near future, a visit to The English Rose can transport you for an afternoon. The atmosphere is an experience unto itself. Diners can order lunch, featuring traditional English fare such as shepherd's pie, or traditional afternoon tea, which includes finger sandwiches and scones with lemon curd, jam and clotted cream. There is certainly superior food in town, but the Rose is lovely for a special outing. Dare to be charmed.
The Ice Cream Show
129 Walnut St. Hours: 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-11 a.m. Friday-Saturday, 1:30-9 p.m. Sunday.
This spring, hit the Walnut Street bridge with a cone of custom-blended ice cream. The Ice Cream Show allows customers to create their own flavors. Visitors make their selection (three is the recommended number) from 40 ingredients, which are blended with chocolate or vanilla ice cream or yogurt in a machine. The result is a custom soft serve. For a sweet and salty treat, try peanut butter, pretzels and dark chocolate mixed with vanilla ice cream, or go lighter and combine yogurt with raspberries, almonds and peaches for a refreshing, fruity treat.
825 Houston St. Phone: 702-5687. Hours: 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday.
An Alaskan coffeehouse in Chattanooga? It's worth checking out. Joe Friday's features friendly service, a cozy atmosphere and simple but tasty fare. Order a soup, salad or sandwich, paired with a smoothie or cup of Joe, and settle at a rustic table downstairs or on one of the sofas upstairs. A specialty ingredient is Alaska smoked salmon. Try it in a salad with tomatoes, walnuts and dried cranberries. Be careful negotiating the winding staircase.
406 Broad St., 266-5874; 1414 Jenkins Road, 855-4104; 5504 Hixson Pike, 847-3700; 2382 N. Ocoee St., Cleveland, Tenn., 423-476-9464. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday.
Lupi's might be the best pizza in Chattanooga. Customers can customize slices by choosing from a hearty selection of meats and vegetables, and determining plain or honey-wheat dough to create specialty tastes to appeal to the individual palate. Most pizza places will only customize by the pie. Ingredients are fresh, the crust is crisp yet soft, and the topping/sauce/cheese ratio is just right. It's not the fastest place to grab a slice, but the quality makes the wait worthwhile.