IF YOU GO
¦ Where: Talus, 812 Scenic Highway, Lookout Mountain, Tenn.¦ Phone: 423-602-5604.• Hours: 4-9 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday• Price range: $5.95 (housemade potato chips with bacon and blue cheese spread)-$18.95 (Braveheart ribeye with green beans and roasted potatoes)• Alcohol: Full bar• Directions: From Chattanooga, pass Ruby Falls to the top of mountain, then go straight and turn left at the fountain. Talus is past the tennis courts and ball fields on the right.
After working as head chef at other restaurants, notably Cibo! (now closed) and Northshore Grille, chef Erick Wood has opened one of his own, Talus. And it's a true culinary experience, well worth the short, 12-minute drive from downtown Chattanooga up Lookout Mountain.
The restaurant's Facebook page describes the cuisine as New American. What exactly is that, you may wonder, since American cuisine is a patchwork of cuisines? It's most easily described as updating American classics with modern techniques and ingredients.
Take, for instance, the Double-Bacon Lucy ($9.95). It's a cheeseburger, yes, but with bacon jam, applewood-smoked bacon and cheddar and American cheeses, it sets a new standard for a cheeseburger wow factor.
Wood's take on the classic Cobb Salad ($9.95) gives it a decided Tex-Mex twist with roasted corn, spicy black beans, jalapeno peppers and roasted red pepper ranch dressing whipped together in-house. Even something as simple as my fish sandwich ($9.95) was a mile-high smack to the taste buds with big, thick, ale-battered onion rings and housemade remoulade on crusty ciabatta.
There's always a daily special, and many evenings it's fish brought in fresh, no more than 24 hours since it was swimming in the deep blue sea.
One menu standard you should consider a must is the sesame tuna ($12.95). Rare ahi tuna is sliced and coated with a thick crust of black and white sesame seeds. It's served on a bed of tangy cucumber kimchee surrounded with soy-honey mustard and sriracha sauce, then finished with a topping of crispy wonton strips. It's possibly the most popular appetizer served at Talus, our server Hannah told us, adding that it's often ordered as an entree for one. But the serving is plenty big enough for an appetizer for two.
There's no denying Wood has a way with steak, and though there's just one on the menu, he's chosen an excellent cut with Braveheart Black Angus ($18.95). It's a big, thick ribeye that's just about as tender as any filet and comes topped with blue cheese/balsamic butter and served with green beans and perfectly seasoned roasted potatoes.
Other choices of note: mushroom-pesto artisan flatbread with caramelized onions, roasted peppers, corn, spinach and goat cheese; blackened ahi tuna salad with mandarin oranges and toasted almonds in Asian vinaigrette; and the four-times flavorful 4 Cheese burger, with American, provolone, smoked Gouda and Swiss.
Talus is in a complex of retail establishments and offices, as well as the town post office near the Town Common. The main dining room is on a level with the kitchen and hostess stand. To one side is an open doorway with a few steps up into a bar area complete with pool table, TVs and a bar serving a full range of beverages. Outside is a shady patio, perfect for dining al fresco and catching a cool mountain breeze in the evening.
The wait staff was charming, familiar with the menu and knowledgeable of what we needed before we knew we needed it -- such as an icy carafe of water. They made our dining experience a pleasant one.
For years, Lookout Mountain, Tenn., suffered from a dearth of restaurants. Talus now brings the total to two (Cafe on the Corner is farther up Scenic Highway) and is a welcome addition to the mountain's culinary choices. Talus offers tastes that mountain residents are appreciating and valley residents should check out.
Email correspondent Anne Braly at firstname.lastname@example.org.