Restaurant Scene: Flying Squirrel to close and reopen as Ernest Chinese

Staff photo / The Flying Squirrel is pictured in 2016.

After a decade of dazzling diners with its eclectic mishmash of "French and East-Asian influences," the Flying Squirrel is landing. Permanently.

The Flying Squirrel's last day of service will be Nov. 5. The owners are replacing it with a new restaurant, Ernest Chinese.

"Lately, we've had a powerful itch to evolve and shake things up," owner Max Poppel said in an emailed message. "We've been searching for the essence, the purest distillation of this concept we've been exploring all these years. What do we really want?"

So if this means no more okonomiyaki or spicy Korean "candy" chicken, then what else does it mean?

Max also answered that question.

"The answer, it turns out, is simple. We want Chinese food," he said. "And tiki drinks."

He made it clear that it wouldn't be the authentic fare like the fuqi feipian I mentioned in an earlier article.

"We are intoxicated by the flavors and the long, bizarrely intertwined histories of American Chinese food and tiki cocktails, and we're going to dive all the way in," Poppel said.

The moniker Ernest Chinese is in homage to the resident cat at the Flying Squirrel's sister business, Crash Pad.

"He (Ernest) was a true character, a fixture on the patio, and the unofficial mascot of both businesses for years," Max said in the same email message. "His six-toed legacy lives on."

Given their history with the meticulous crafting of dishes and cocktails at Flying Squirrel, I have no doubt that Max and his team will have the finest chop suey and mai tais Chattanooga has ever had. Before his message ended, Max reassured my conviction.

"We intend to do justice to the cuisine and show respect to our guests by using quality ingredients, as we always have," he said.

A date for the opening of Ernest Chinese has not been announced.

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

  photo  Andre James