If you go
› Where: Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar, 1924 Gunbarrel Road› Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.› Prices: $4-$14.25› Alcohol: Full bar› Contact: 423-475-5948, www.baddaddysburgerbar.com
Chattanoogans love a new restaurant, and Bad Daddy's Burger Bar is no exception to the rule. I'd been looking forward to trying it since it opened in early April, but was worried about the crowds that inevitably descend on new places in town, so my family opted for a late lunch on a recent Saturday.
Situated in a new strip of restaurants across from Starbucks on Gunbarrel Road, the place was hopping, with a 25-minute wait to be seated at 2 p.m. I can't imagine how long it would take for a table for a weekend dinner. But after the meal I had, I'm willing to bet you'll be glad you toughed it out.
The restaurant is fairly big and airy, with light streaming in through a front wall of windows. They all have screens on them to diffuse the light, though, nixing the chance that customers will be blinded or roasted by the sun. There's a bar in the front area. Mesh screens around a middle grouping of tables divides the room into smaller sections and helps limit the noise you'd expect from a place this size. There was music playing, but I could hear everyone at my table with ease.
It's decorated with a mishmash of vintage signs, photos and posters, most of which depict famous bad boys from American history. Think James Brown and Johnny Cash police mug shots and "The Dirty Dozen" and "Dr. No" movie posters.
Garage-door windows open onto a large patio, which is in a breezeway shared with the newly open Mission BBQ. An Uncle Maddio's Pizza will be opening here, too, so expect large crowds waiting out front. The front parking lot is too small for this many restaurants, but we discovered a huge lot in back that should be more than adequate once everything is up and running.
Burgers are the stars here, but the rest of the menu will tempt you to stray. Stand-out starters include two kinds of nachos (one with Bad Daddy's Amber Ale queso and chili and another with BBQ chicken and a spicy corn slaw) and a bacon-and-jalapeno queso. You can get regular or sweet potato fries (which were notable), tots or Buffalo tots, and Truffle Parmesan Fries, a delicious pile of crispy, but fluffy, fries tossed with truffle salt, Parmesan cheese and herbs and served with a creamy truffle aioli for dipping.
You can use the handy order forms on the tables to create your own burgers (starting at $9.95) or salads (starting at $6.75), choosing from more than 50 items to build your perfect meal. Or, pick one of 13 signature burgers ($9.95-$13.95), like the Bacon Cheeseburger on Steroids (Monterey Jack cheese, three pieces of jalapeno bacon, three pieces of applewood-smoked bacon, housemade bacon mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles); the Pittsburger (housemade American cheese, shoestring fries, spicy garlic ketchup, lettuce, tomato and red onion); or the Magic Mushroom (sauteed morel, shiitake, chanterelle, oyster and baby portobello mushrooms, Swiss cheese, truffle aioli and arugula).
There's a selection of Non Burger Burgers, with several chicken sandwiches, a turkey and a black bean burger, and the Maui Tuna, with poke-style ground tuna with arugula, wasabi slaw and Thai chili sauce on a multigrain bun ($12.95).
There's an assortment of cocktails, and the craft beer menu includes a Bad Daddy's Amber Ale that's $4 every day.
First up was the Housemade Potato Chips appetizer with French onion dip and pimento cheese. The chips were super-thinly sliced, seasoned with a little kick and just sturdy enough for dipping. The pimento cheese and French onion dip were served warm, both creamy and delicious. Onion dip and pimento cheese are pretty basic staples to me, but both of Bad Daddy's creations offered a surprising depth of flavor that had the whole table crunching happily.
My husband chose the Fried Mozzarella Burger ($10.95), which was topped with a thick slice of fresh mozzarella, tomato jam, garlic mayo, Dijon mustard, red onion and lettuce. He loved it, and we both particularly enjoyed the hint of sweetness from the jam. I ordered the Bad Ass Burger ($13.95). This 10-ounce patty was paired with housemade American cheese, buttermilk-fried bacon (!), horseradish mayo, lettuce, tomato and pickles. The bacon alone was worth the trip, and I was compelled to get an extra side of the mayo for the half burger I took home. Both patties were thick and delicious and stayed together well, although I almost wished they were a little less tightly packed. The burger itself wasn't the best I've ever had, but the toppings elevated the whole to special status.
My kids loved their grilled cheese and especially the chicken tenders, and they convinced us to spring for handspun milkshakes. They were chock-full of add-ins, but just the right texture to sip through the fat straws with which they're served. After a meal that size, two people can easily share one shake.
Our server was pleasant and fairly helpful, although he forgot to bring two of our drinks. It also took more than 20 minutes to get our chips appetizer. I flagged him down to have him check on them, and the food appeared at our table in a couple of minutes. Sadly, this was only three minutes before our full meal arrived. I have no idea if the fault lies with our server forgetting to put the order in, or with the kitchen for not getting it ready. The manager was walking around checking on customers later and, after raving about the food, we did mention the appetizer delay. He was quick to apologize, and our ticket showed a slow-ticket credit, which we appreciated.
We had a great meal, with something particularly delicious about every plate of food we ordered. From homemade cheese, unique sauces and interesting flavor combinations to bacon you could dream about, this place is clearly on a mission to elevate its food by doing the little things really well. Final verdict: Bad Daddy's is all good.
Contact Sara Jackson at 423-757-6594 or email@example.com.