Repurposing is a big thing in architecture today, and that's what Chloe Wright and Ryan Smith have done with the opening of their second restaurant, Elsie's Daughter. The couple also opened Rosecomb on Barton Avenue in the summer of 2021.
Elsie's is located in a building tucked behind the new Hotel Chalet and its refurbished train cars at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. It's housed in a small building, once a maintenance shed, that in past years may have gone unnoticed by visitors to the complex, which includes lodging and entertainment venues. But now, just like the hotel has been given a new life, so has that old building once housing the things that made the Choo Choo hum. It's now a restaurant, Elsie's Daughter, that embraces the flavors and spirit of Appalachia with a taste of French-Belgian cuisine.
The Dish on Dining
— Where: Elsie's Daughter, 1404 Rossville Ave., at the Chattanooga Choo Choo
— Hours: 4 p.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Saturday, 4-9 p.m. Sunday
— Price range: $12-$20
— Alcohol: Full bar
— Phone: 423-266-5000
— Online: thehotelchalet.com/dining
Elsie's Daughter, named for the wife, daughter and granddaughter of the Choo Choo's architect, Donn Barber, has an interesting menu. The choices are small with only about a dozen offerings, most all of which are plates made to share.
Ordering small plates is a fun experience because you order several and get to experience not only different tastes, but also the cleverness of the chef, Chris Greer, who's done a magnificent job of mixing the two cuisines in an artful way. It's often said we eat with our eyes before it even touches our palate, and in this case, the adage is true.
— The order: Bone Marrow Tartine, crushed potatoes, smoked trout dip with house-made chips, and a burger, one of two entrée choices on the menu the evening I visited. The other was a half chicken that appeared roasted to perfection, from what I saw served at other tables..
As I mentioned previously, the menu is small, but it has an ingenious choice of offerings that lacks nothing and gives a little nudge to our mountain heritage.
Chattanooga Choo Choo’s old maintenance shed now houses Hotel Chalet’s new restaurant, Elsie’s Daughter
All of the plates we ordered were meant for sharing, starting with the amazing Bone Marrow Tartine — two generous pieces of crispy bread topped with a smear of bone marrow, tomato jam, shallot and parsley. I've not seen bone marrow on any menu in Chattanooga, so this is solid proof that you can expect the unexpected when dining at Elsie's Daughter. It was an amazing marriage of flavors and perfect with a glass of wine from the Burgundy region of France.
There's a little town in Michigan, Fishtown, that I've always thought had the best smoked trout dip of any I've ever had. Now I've found that I no longer have to travel to Michigan to get phenomenal smoked trout dip. Elsie's Daughter's version is served with delicate, crisp potato chips. I wish I knew how they slice them so thin. They were perfect.
Chef Greer has given a thoughtful approach to his menu, and I was glad to see a burger on it. The meat was hand-patted, and the bun was thin enough but tasty without overwhelming the taste of the beef. There are no french fries on the menu, but the crushed potatoes are a wonderful pairing to the burger. They're chunks that are crispy and covered with melted cheese, drizzled with Green Goddess dressing and just delicious. They also make a good side to the roast chicken.
The servers and bartender worked together seamlessly to deliver drinks and dishes to our table. I was impressed with the swiftness at which the orders were delivered, considering the restaurant was busy on the night of my visit.
The dining area isn't large, but there is an outside patio that expands the seating to 80 guests. It's equipped with heaters to make it comfortable on cool evenings. Many of the original architectural elements were uncovered during renovations, and they remain in place, including handsome brick walls and the rugged but beautiful wood-framed windows. The entrance door is also part of the original structure and shows its age in elegant fashion.
The space is small, but intimate with a bar and extra seating at one end, stocked with lovely wines and liquors.
I'm in love with this little restaurant. I love the location in its little hidey-hole surrounded by vintage train cars. The menu is unlike anything I've found in town. The handcrafted cocktails were artful and fun. Altogether, it's soon to become another success for Wright and Smith's young but growing restaurant empire.