IF YOU GO• Where: Clyde's On Main, 122 W. Main St.• Phone: 423-362-8335.• Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday (bar open until midnight), 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Thursday-Saturday (bar open until 2 a.m.).• Price range: $4 boiled peanuts to $25 Texas ribeye.
When I realized the retro auto-glass shop on Main Street was for sale, I desperately hoped that some savvy entrepreneur would turn it into something reflecting the flourishing Southside. So I was happy to hear that the Monens of Taco Mamacita and Urban Stack fame would turn this old building into a dive bar called Clyde's On Main. If anyone could give Clyde's Auto Glass the second life it deserved, it was the Monens.
The menu is the same for lunch and dinner. Appetizers read like typical bar food - smoked wings ($11), soft pretzels ($7), nachos ($12) - but with surprises - boiled peanuts ($4), china dog ($6.)
There are also soups and salads like the smoked chicken chili ($5 cup, $8 bowl) and the blue cheese chopped salad ($12) with grilled chicken.
Next come sandwiches. The standouts, like Choo Choo Hot Fish ($12) with spicy fried cod, slaw, tomato, house pickles and Louisiana hot sauce, and the Badass Loaded BLT ($8) with Clyde's bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado, melted white cheddar, pickles and Duke's mayo (an absolute must in the South), all on a multigrain bread, will get a return visit out of me.
The Buttermilk Fried Chicken Plate ($13), Texas Ribeye ($25) and Caribbean Jerk Half Chicken ($12), just a few of the entrees, are served with two sides.
Clyde's also has a smoker and serves up a limited supply of pulled pork ($12 dinner with two sides, $9 sandwich with chips), Texas-style brisket ($14 dinner with two sides, $10 sandwich with chips), and a hickory-smoked half-chicken dinner ($12) with two sides.
Speaking of sides, everything from mayo or hot mustard slaw ($2.50), to Bloody Mary salad ($2.50) and a loaded baked potato ($4) are available to add on to your meal.
For lunch we weighed many options but couldn't resist the Philly Cheesesteak Egg Rolls ($7). These were strangely delicious. Steak, peppers, onions and Swiss cheese, rolled in a crunchy coat of batter and then deep-fried? How could you go wrong with that? I'm not sure I needed the side of Cheez Whiz-style dipping sauce it comes with though. These come with four pieces and I could only eat one, which leads me to believe I would enjoy it more after a few beers.
I can't say no to barbecue on a menu. The "From the Smoker" portion of the menu came highly recommended by a friend and by our waitress, so we started with the pulled pork sandwich ($9) with a side of sweet potato fries (it normally comes with chips, but these were 50 cents more). The sandwich is great, and though not my favorite in Chattanooga, it's worth visiting for. It's tender and sweet, but the hickory-smoke and dry rub are something special. There's also an array of barbecue sauces.
The sweet potato fries are heavily dusted in sugar and seasoned salt. I normally like mine plain, so I wasn't a huge fan of these.
We also ordered (and split) the Bahn Mi sandwich ($11), which is not something I find a lot of in Chattanooga. The Vietnamese-style sandwich is served on a baguette with layers of crunchy pickled vegetables, daikon slaw, cilantro, chile sauce, garlic mayo, pork and homemade Asian bologna. This sandwich was large. I ate my half of the barbecue sandwich and was only able to take a few bites, but found this to be a better lunch option. It's big but lighter than the barbecue sandwich. The BBQ chips it comes with are house-made, but also pretty salty.
I was honestly surprised at how busy Clyde's was for a Wednesday lunch. Still, we were greeted and seated in one of the few remaining patio tables within a minute of walking through the door.
Like other Monen venues, service is polite, knowledgeable and quick. Our meal came out within minutes of ordering, making this a great option for workday lunches. It still seemed like some servers were learning their roles, but nothing a few more weeks of packed nights and lunches won't fix. Some have remarked that their service is suspiciously fast, but if you've ever been to Taco Mamacita, you know these restaurants run efficiently.
There's no way around it: The interior of Clyde's is just cool. When you walk in, you're greeted with a retro TV-set hostess stand, one of the many old details that you'll find around the restaurant. To your left, netting guards eaters and drinkers from stray balls from the several Ping Pong tables. Along the left-facing wall, there's the large and long tall bar, complete with the large custom neon marquee sign hanging over the space. To the right are rows of high-top tables, then lighted pinball tables, serving as coffee tables to plush dark brown couches. Along the wall are gorgeous large booths and red velvet curtains, adorned with bright gold tassels.
The rear wall is actually glass garage doors that open into a large patio space. Between the interior and patio are long communal bars, perfect for solo lunchers or large groups (the proximity to the shuffleboard tables is key here). The plastic windows to the patio are also adjustable - on a nice September afternoon, they were open to let the breeze in, but could be rolled down and sealed for winter months. There are small tables and large picnic tables here, great for crowds. The space wasn't as dark as I anticipated during the day, and I'm sure the string lights hanging from the ceiling create a great nighttime atmosphere.
A large part of Clyde's fun ambiance is, in due part, to the space the Monens have created. Whether you want to have a quick bite or drink or want to drink PBR deep into the night, Clyde's is comfortable.
For me, a lot of what Clyde's menu offered wasn't my idea of lunch fare. There's a lot of fried, heavy foods that really require that beer to wash down. Next time for lunch, I'll try something on the lighter side, just because the service was so quick and it's a fun atmosphere.
I'll instead reserve the barbecue and fried chicken for when I visit at night and get to enjoy a few of their specialty cocktails. Though I maintain that you can't create a "dive bar" without years of service, there's a reason there's a wait to get into Clyde's on weekend nights. I'll wait for the line to go down and enjoy the bar frequently, as Clyde's On Main makes a great addition to the Southside neighborhood and is sure to stick around.
Contact Meghan Pittman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6506.