Comforts at Chattanooga’s new Number Ten steakhouse aim to make customers feel at home

Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Adam Johnston of Number 10 Steakhouse poses for a portrait inside the restaurant on Wednesday, November 30, 2022.

Patrons dining at Number Ten steakhouse may sate their appetites with a Porterhouse or rib-eye. But they also can feast on the visual appeal of the new restaurant on Chattanooga's redeveloping Southside.

The restaurant adds another element of luxury to a newly renovated parcel of buildings near Rossville Boulevard and Main Street. It's part of a $25 million development called Burnside that has transformed the former Andrews Paper Box Co. into a complex of apartments and commercial space. Nearby are residential lots where Greentech Homes is building townhomes.

Number Ten was developed by business partners Adam Johnston and Vern Kennedy, who originated the concept for their steakhouse in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The flagship location, named for its street address, built a reputation on its selection of steaks, small plates and whiskeys. Johnston said he expects the same for the Chattanooga location.

Johnston offered a tour shortly before the restaurant's soft opening in December. To see it ready for customers is to marvel at the imagination and toil that went into its transformation. These are some of the secrets of its ambiance.

  photo  Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Number 10 Steakhouse is seen on Wednesday, November 30, 2022.
 Olivia Ross 


The network of wooden beams in the open ceiling is the first feature you'll notice when you enter the restaurant.

"Your eye instantly goes up," Johnston said.

Although some of the original beams couldn't be salvaged -- "because the roof was so bad," Johnston said -- the co-owners opted to leave the ceiling open to evoke the building's industrial past.

"We wanted to keep the original theme of the building," Johnston said.

  photo  Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Number 10 Steakhouse is seen on Wednesday, November 30, 2022.
 Olivia Ross 


Patrons will enter the restaurant upon a wide-plank, dark hardwood floor that gleams in the restaurant's soft lighting.

"The (original) flooring was completely dilapidated," Johnston said.

The pandemic gave him extra time to roll up his sleeves and do the work himself.

"It was not very fun, I'll tell you that," he said. "I did the tile around the bar, too."

Pieces of the old flooring planks and the gate of the freight elevator were salvaged to form a floating wall near the exit to the restrooms and to add interest to the wall behind the bar.

  photo  Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Number 10 Steakhouse is seen on Wednesday, November 30, 2022.
 Olivia Ross 


Live-edge wood, sourced from arborists in Tennessee and Massachusetts, has several uses within the space. The largest pieces form three six-top tables within the dining area as well as the 14-stool, L-shaped bar. A narrower length forms a drink rail along a wall near the entrance.

Johnston built all of the live-edge fixtures.

"It's certainly a challenge to take the piece [of raw wood] and make it fit as a table," Johnston said. "There were definitely parts of each one that had to be removed. They came in pretty rough."

Voids in the wood had to be filled with epoxy resin, and smoothing the surface took "hours and hours of sanding," Johnston said. "It took a lot of work to get them to a state that's pretty and flat to use as a table."

Each table took about 40 hours from start to finish, he said, but he believes the effort was worth the payoff.

"It's one of those things people will enjoy and notice straightaway," he said. "It's one of those things that will take [Number Ten] to a different level with the personal touches."

  photo  Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Number 10 Steakhouse is seen on Wednesday, November 30, 2022.
 Olivia Ross 


A vintage tufted sofa and chairs form a small "leather lounge" near the entry doors. A live-edge coffee table, also built by Johnston, awaits drinks.

In the dining room, each seating area offers its own vibe. High-back booths, inviting intimate conversations, line one wall. Two- and four-top tables fill the majority of the dining area, without crowding it.

Johnston's can-do work ethic figured prominently in the rest of the dining area as well. In addition to the live-edge pieces, he built all of the booths and the bookcase. The purchased dining chairs are an eclectic mix of styles. Their similar wood tones make the look cohesive.

Johnston said the restaurant is set up with 104 seats, including the 14 at the bar.

"There's room for more tables if I want to squeeze them in, but I prefer to keep it more open, so you don't feel like somebody's listening in on your conversation," he said.

The high-back booths have a speakeasy intimacy that Johnston said he tried to capture in the open spaces as well.

"That was the intention of the high-back wall -- to make each one its own individual space," he said. "We tried to carry that over by making each table its own space."

  photo  Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Number 10 Steakhouse is seen on Wednesday, November 30, 2022.
 Olivia Ross 


Large ferns offer an indoor nod to nature. The largest are suspended from beams to delineate the passage from bar to dining area in the open-concept space. Others add a punch of color on console tables situated between dining tables and near the leather lounge.

Old books fill the bookcase shelves and other niches. Black-and-white photos, mostly of farm animals, and most shot by Johnston, draw the eye to the walls.

"I personally love old books, old photos, vintage furniture," Johnston said. "It just adds a feeling of home."

The intent, he said, is "that people feel like they belong here -- not just show up and get your order taken."