Restaurant Scene: 5 favorites from the Scenic City EggFest

Just to clarify, Elder's Ace Hardware's sixth annual Scenic City EggFest had nothing to do with actual eggs from chickens.

There were no Denver omelets, eggs Sardou or frittatas. Instead, the EggFest was named after the wildly popular Big Green Egg, which dubs itself "The Ultimate Cooking Machine." Indeed, grilling could be an easy going, leisurely pursuit like casually flipping hamburgers in between sips of an ice-cold beer, ideally poolside while grooving to "Under the Boardwalk" by The Drifters. Grilling can also be a competitive sport.

That is the atmosphere I walked into early Saturday morning at Collegedale Commons. There were teams with uniforms and coaches, star players and strategies. This was not the time and place for the amateurs who spend an hour trying to get the charcoal to light and then eventually end up burning the bratwurst and dropping the pan of baked beans on the ground. This was for the people who splurge on Wi-Fi meat thermometers and waxed denim aprons. The type of people who are vehemently for (or against) dry rubs and think injecting turkeys with marinades is both lazy and bush league. The type of people who obsess over grill marks and smoke rings. They debate oak versus hickory versus mesquite, charcoal versus pellets, indirect versus direct heat and protect "secret family" barbecue sauce recipes that span four or five generations. People who proudly call themselves EggSperts and EggHeads.

To sum it up, the Scenic City EggFest is Bonnaroo for grill geeks. I ate my way through meatloaf, rib tips and candied bacon to give you a recap of all the goodies.

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Whole alligator from Fireproof — I hate being typical. I really wanted to tell everybody that alligator meat tastes slightly like veal or roasted sheepshead (the fish, not the actual head of a sheep). The truth of the matter is, this alligator tasted like chicken, marinated with a heavy dose of Cajun spices. It's also the first time I had a gator that wasn't a fried nugget.

Pig shots from Smoking Aces — Just the thought of what a "pig shot" could be intrigued me. Basically, they made little cups out of thick cut bacon about the same size of a standard 1.5-ounce shot glass. Those little bacon cups were filled with kielbasa sausage and a blend of cream cheese, minced jalapenos and The Gospel All Purpose Rub from Meat Church. I'm stealing the recipe for the next Super Bowl party I go to.


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MoonPie banana pudding from Smokey Boys — In my opinion, the MoonPie is Chattanooga's official food mascot (no offense to the Creme Pie from Little Debbie or the Krystal slider). So it's only right that the defending champions had this up their sleeves. The mini banana MoonPie was heated on a grill until the insides were ooey and gooey before being covered in a dollop of banana pudding and a few slices of fresh bananas.

Prime Rib from Owl's Nest BBQ — This prime rib was probably the reason Steve Ray and his Owl's Nest BBQ team came out victorious, winning first place in the People's Choice Award in the Pro Division. Smoked for what seemed like forever with pecan wood, this prime rib was so tender, Steve Ray's carving knife might as well have been a prop.

Pulled pork tacos from Choo Choo Smokers — This wasn't like the carnitas tacos I always order form the "authentic" taquerias and carnicerias, but they were just as delicious. The pork shoulder was cooked for eight hours before being shredded and covered with elote (Mexican street corn), green onions and homemade chipotle ranch, and the tortillas were made of corn instead of flour, which always makes me happy.

Contact Andre James at or 423-757-6327. Sign up for his weekly newsletter, "What to Eat Next," at

  photo  Andre James