There was a time when restaurants in Chattanooga were few and far between — several downtown, a couple on Brainerd Road, one or two in East Ridge. Choices were few. Fast-forward several decades, and the Scenic City has become a dining destination in its own right.
In the past year, more new ones have opened on our mountains, by the river, the malls, the Southside, the Northshore, West Village and beyond.
"Chattanooga's culinary scene is ever-growing, and there is always room for more," says Donna Elle Harrison, Director of Cultural Tourism & Inclusive Marketing with Chattanooga Tourism Co. "Residents and visitors have their favorite restaurants that they love returning to, but they also want to experience a diverse pool of restaurants and worldwide cuisines."
When visitors visit Chattanooga for the first time, they spend much of their experience focused on the city's outdoor scene and our many cultural offerings, Harrison adds.
"So when it comes to deciding where to eat, they are often pleasantly surprised. Chattanooga has become a dining destination for every palate," she says.
Here's a look at some of the newest, where you can dine on everything from comforting Southern fare to tastes that stretch across the globe, all within a short drive of each other.
409 Market St., Chattanooga
Nationally known artist Genesis the Greykid has embarked on a new beginning with the upcoming opening of HOME, a restaurant that, from floor to ceiling, shows his mastery of fine art ("Art that helps explain the world around you," he says), while offering a menu he describes as Southern with a modern twist.
"It's an elevated approach to dishes you might have had at home, but the menu will change seasonally with some staples from home," he says, giving a dish, Green and Gold, as an example: crispy Yukon Gold potatoes with avocado, edamame hummus, lemon kale salad and a fried egg drizzled with green goddess dressing.
Genesis has traveled the country, meeting people who give him the inspiration for poems and paintings. He recently created a line of coffee mugs, Mooshi Mugs, that he sells at HOME as well.
Returning to his hometown to open a restaurant and bar was an easy decision.
"It's my birth town — and also my favorite city," he says.
Like any artist, Genesis has taken a blank canvas — an old building on Market Street, most recently home to an indoor axe-throwing range — and turned it into a dynamic space for dining, with newly constructed walls, a kitchen and a dining area. Each space, too, has his touch — one that sets the decor apart from other eateries downtown (or anywhere in town, for that matter), with dark gray walls and bits of bright color that make his art stand out and make a statement.
"But I want people to come for the food, too," he says. "I don't want people thinking they'd walked into my gallery coming here. I love food and community, and my partners, Brian Money and brothers Lee and Matt Brock, love it as much as I do."
HOME is slated to open December 2023 or January 2024. Hours will be: Monday-Thursday, 3 p.m.-2 a.m.; Friday-Sunday, 11 a.m.- 2 a.m.
Civil Provisions and Bar
720 Mississippi Ave., Signal Mountain
Jason Bowers opened Bitter Alibi in 2014, followed by Daily Ration in 2016, then Clever Alehouse six years later. He's now added another notch to his culinary belt with the opening of Civil Provisions and Bar during the summer of 2023.
The name has a little wordplay going on — a double-entendre, so to speak.
"As a company, we like to take words that sometimes have negative feelings and flip them on their heads," he says. "In the South, Civil can almost immediately be pointed to Civil War, but we like to think of civility as something that is positive and keeps peace around the table."
And that it does, with dishes like kofta kabob and grilled shrimp with polenta and seasonal vegetables, two of the dishes that reflect the nature of the pan-Mediterranean menu with some Southern staples thrown in, allowing chefs Savage Glascock and Seth McGill the freedom to showcase seasonal ingredients and trends.
Menu offerings are unlike Bowers' three other eateries, all of which lean toward a more casual dining experience.
"Civil is a more refined restaurant than the other three, with higher-quality menu items and service. We took the parts of the old restaurants that we knew people enjoyed, and then tried to add the elements we knew people wanted," the restaurateur says.
That translates into a restaurant with a more extensive cocktail program, elegant wine list and seasonal food offerings — just a few things Bowers says they are trying to perfect.
The Signal Mountain location has been home to several restaurants over the past few decades, most recently Hummingbird Pastaria. The building housing Civil has been completely restored with the bones left intact. A new bar was added, along with a sparkling new kitchen, a refurbished patio and a small addition on the front, but the atmosphere and ambiance retain much of what patrons of its predecessors appreciated: a neighborhood spot where people can feel comfortable wearing whatever they choose, from jeans to more formal attire, and select from a menu with different price points to fit their wallets.
"That's why we have wings and burgers on the menu, along with steaks," Bowers says. "We don't want this to be too much of a special-night-out kind of place. We want people to be able to stop in multiple times and feel good about it."
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 4-10 p.m.
Old Man Rivers Table & Tavern
118 Cross St., Chattanooga
When Alex Rivers opened Old Man Rivers over the summer of 2023, a lifetime dream was realized.
"I'm someone who's always loved Chattanooga, and now, [Chef] Andrew and I get to show everyone what we're capable of," he says.
Rivers spent 23 years bartending in Chattanooga restaurants, learning the ins and outs of the restaurant business while tapping kegs and crafting cocktails, all the while considering opening his own. He's a hands-on restaurateur, helping prep foods before the evening rush, and by 6 p.m., when the tables are filled, you'll find him in the role of server, taking orders and delivering food to guests eager to try the newest menu that rolls out every Wednesday.
Before becoming Old Man Rivers, the restaurant was home to The Big Table. Saying it was small is an understatement. It was tiny. But the location was perfect. And as Rivers' dream took shape, the space became larger. An old bathroom area became the bar, and two new bathrooms were constructed in the back corner of the building. New plumbing and electrical were installed and an outdoor closet became a walk-in cooler. A porch for al fresco dining was also added to the front, increasing seating capacity, and future plans call for additional outdoor seating in the back.
In the shiny new kitchen, Chef Andrew Milsap, a man with a resume that includes several years as restaurant chef at Broad Street Grill and, most recently, a decade spent as food and beverage director at UTC, prepares a menu of elevated Southern cuisine using whatever fresh produce and other ingredients he can procure, such as small plates of Brussels sprouts with Benton's bacon and caramelized onions. Or, for dinner, a beautiful plate of stout-and-coffee-braised ribs on a bed of tender gnocchi.
"Really, [it's] anything and everything he wants to prepare for our guests," Rivers says. "This is his hometown, and I'm looking forward to showing everyone how compassionate and talented he truly is. We recycle, we compost and we don't have a deep fryer, freezer or microwave. That makes it more challenging, but it keeps it interesting for us and for our guests. We're cooking."
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Happy Hour, 3-5 p.m. (Monday-Saturday). Sunday brunch, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
826 Scenic Highway, Lookout Mountain, Tenn.
When deciding on the menu for Massey's Kitchen, the owners didn't look through cookbooks or cruise the internet for ideas. They headed straight to the source and traveled to the Mediterranean for inspiration.
"The Mediterranean regions have long celebrated fresh ingredients, shareable foods and great drinks, and we believed it would be a great fit for our menu design as well as the community," says Scott Eiselstein, research and development chef for SquareOne Holding Company, a company that owns and operates restaurants and breweries across the Southeast — and locally, they have restaurants not only on Lookout Mountain, but in the valley below.
"We were intentional about the location [at the corner of Scenic Highway and North Watauga Lane] as well as the name," says Jamie Walton, SquareOne's chief operating officer. "The name, Massey's Kitchen, pays tribute to the former Massey's General Store that occupied the exact same space for 50 years. It was known as being the community gathering place from 1920 to 1970, and we believe that Massey's Kitchen will honor that tradition and create a new place for the community to enjoy with friends and family."
The menu has beautiful selections of mouthwatering homemade breads — focaccia served with olive oil and balsamic, Italian baguettes for toasted ham and gruyere and homemade chicken salad sandwiches. And mama mia! Pizzas with crusts made with imported Italian flour, as well as flatbreads, including the caprese, shrimp scampi or mortadella with arugula and pistachio pesto. Finish your meal with a scoop of house-made gelato.
"We wanted Massey's Kitchen to be a community gathering place where guests come to enjoy scratch-made dishes and cocktails," says Fletcher Thompson, director of operations at SquareOne.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. seven days.
Frazier Five & Dime
16 Frazier Ave., Chattanooga
When chef Reed Trimble, along with partners George Lewallen, Dustin Choate and Miguel Morales, opened Frazier Five & Dime, their mission was to "take the fuss out of dining," Trimble says.
"It was a common phrase used during the conception of the Five & Dime. We wanted to create a restaurant that achieved an elevated neighborhood bar feel with a dining experience to match."
Chattanooga's Northshore seemed a no-brainer.
"With such a dynamic demographic living and working within an arm's reach of us, hopefully this restaurant will be able to grow right alongside of Chattanooga," Trimble says.
There's no regional spin on the menu. No fusion and, again, no fuss. The aim is fun — a dining experience that's fun for the guests when they peruse the menu and fun for the kitchen when they create each order, Trimble says, adding: "The food, though, without exception, is taken seriously. Behind closed doors, the 'fine dining' side creeps into the preparations of dishes."
Looking for a different take on classics, the team added deviled eggs to the menu, a decision that has become a menu mainstay. The stuffing changes periodically but always in a clever fashion, like deviled eggs stuffed with Lay's Sour Cream & Onion Potato Chips.
The restaurant's signature dish, its smoked chicken, is something that cannot be rushed, spending three days in the smoker till it's fall-off-the-bone tender, and it's especially good with a smear of Alabama white sauce.
Trimble is a hometown chef who began his culinary career at St. John's Restaurant, a Southside eatery where he stayed for about 10 years before owning his first: the Five & Dime. His partners, though, have decades of experience in the restaurant industry. Choate owns Tremont Tavern; Morales, Feed Co. Table & Tavern and 1885 Grill; and Lewallen opened Parkway Pourhouse in 2018.
"When I was a kid, I remember Frazier Avenue being this new and vibrant part of Chattanooga," Trimble says. "There were always people around. The aquarium was fairly new, and they had also just redone the Walnut Street Bridge. There was a buzz that seemingly moved across the river as I got older. We want to be a part of redirecting that feeling back to the Northshore."
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 3-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 3-11 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Happy hour, 3-6 p.m. daily.
Other New Restaurants Redefining Dining
As Chattanooga's dining scene continues to expand, new restaurants have opened in the past year (or are about to open), turning the Scenic City from a meat-and-three town into one with an exciting dining scene. Here's a quick take on some of the newest eats in the city.
Where: At the Hotel Chalet at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo
Slated opening: Nov. 2023
The menu: A touch of European finesse meets the heartiness of Appalachian victuals with both shareables and solo dishes. From tartares and smoked trout to frites and exquisite salads, the fare pays homage to Southern and Appalachian culinary traditions. thehotelchalet.com/dining
Big Bad Breakfast
Where: 313 Manufacturer's Road
Opened: Summer 2023
The menu: Over-the-top breakfasts, like the Mother of All Biscuits, along with big lunch fare, such as the fried chicken Screamin' Demon sandwich, are the hallmarks of an outrageous dining experience at this chain of restaurants that started in Oxford, Miss. Expect the unexpected. There are now 21 locations across the South. bigbadbreakfast.com/locations/chattanooga
Where: 203 Broad St.
Opened: Fall 2022
The menu: It's a little bit of everything, with dishes that cover the culinary quilt — woodfired pizza, wings, jerk chicken, beet ravioli, chicken schnitzel, lamb bolognese. Wooden City takes diners on an ingenious adventure in dining. woodencitychattanooga.com
Where: 1705 Market St.
Opened: Fall 2022
On the menu: Not your average bagels, they're a creative take on bagels made in-house like they do in Montreal — in a woodfired oven. Look for the 2AM Bagel sandwich with bacon, sausage, eggs, hash browns and white cheddar. After breakfast, the woodfired oven is used to bake pizzas, such as the Mexican with tomato sauce, mozzarella, roasted chicken, chickpea chorizo, jalapeños, tomato and crema. honeyseedchatt.com
Where: 3950 Tennessee Ave.
Expected opening: Nov. 2023
On the menu: Located in Chattanooga's historic St. Elmo neighborhood, Little Coyote pays homage to barbecue traditions that have long inspired chef Erik Niel, including smoked meats and fish from Tex-Mex, Cuban, Caribbean and Southwestern cuisines. Tequila and mezcal cocktails complement chuck-eye steak that is slow-smoked, brisket-style, as well as pork-stuffed tortillas with chimichurri. This is an original concept to Chattanooga that Niel and wife, Amanda, have been working on for several years. littlecoyote.com
Sabor Latino and Sushi
Where: 1800 Dayton Blvd.
Opened: Summer 2023
On the menu: The flavors and flair of Latin cuisine meet Red Bank as Chattanoogans savor each bite at Sabor. Tender brisket over a bed of crispy cheese fries, freshly made empanadas and colorful sushi rolls are all part of a menu with a playful edge. Find them on Facebook.