Restaurant Scene: JJ Fish & Chicken overwhelmed during soft opening in Chattanooga

Staff Photo by Dave Flessner / The JJ Fish & Chicken location on Highway 58, pictured Wednesday, had a soft opening this week but does not have an opening date set yet.

Note: This story was updated on May 26 to remove a mistaken reference to security at the restaurant.

JJ Fish & Chicken could have used security backup at its soft opening Tuesday on Highway 58.

It was bedlam, in a good way. Soft openings are commonplace for a restaurant's staff to work out the kinks, iron out the wrinkles and "test equipment," as the owner mentioned.

Things became so chaotic that the staff resorted to only allowing 10 customers at a time to enter. An hour later, the restaurant closed completely until the crowd could be brought under control.

As of now, there's no menu posted anywhere, but as the name suggests, there will be fish (whiting, tilapia and others) and chicken (wings, tenders and gizzards) and choices of the usual sides like french fries and fried okra. All of that is sprinkled liberally with a mysterious powder that I've heard some people refer to as "fairy dust" and "crack powder," but is more than likely something heavy on the monosodium glutamate, aka MSG, but definitely not fairy dust or crack powder.

Chattanooga seems to lure in Chicago-influenced food. There is already Lil' Mama's Chicago-style hoagy in its "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"-themed space in the Tomorrow Building, and Windy City Eatz, where you can chomp down on a Chicago-style hot dog while cheering the Chattanooga Football Club at Finley Stadium (but please don't ask for ketchup). With more than 100 JJ Fish & Chicken locations in Chicago alone, this is the first in the state of Tennessee.

Was the crowd and fanfare simply hype? People love the new kid on the block until that newness loses its luster. With a fuzzy official opening date that keeps getting pushed back, will people get impatient? Is JJ Fish & Chicken worth its weight in vegetable oil ? Will its fish and chicken be delicious enough for Chattanoogans to turn their backs on mainstays like Champy's and Uncle Larry's? We'll see, if and when they finally open.

  photo  Andre James / Staff photo