'State of Confusion' brings Latin American, New Orleans cuisine to Southside

'State of Confusion' brings Latin American, New Orleans cuisine to Southside

Main Street eatery offers unique, authentic foods and drink

July 8th, 2018 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Construction progresses on a new restaurant called State of Confusion being built on the former site of Estate of Confusion on Main Street on Friday, June 29, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Gallery: "State of Confusion"

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Fifteens months after the eclectic salvage outlet known as Estate of Confusion closed, the Main Street facility will reopen next month as a unique, indoor and outdoor restaurant and bar known as State of Confusion.

The new eatery at 301 East Main Street will feature made-from-scratch Latin American, New Orleans and low-country food, including Peruvian ceviche and wood-fire grilled meats and vegetables.

Square One Holdings, the restaurant business formed by former Craftswork managers who opened The Stir two years ago in the Chattanooga Choo Choo, is spending nearly $2.5 million to renovate and reactivate the former junk yard, which Greg Ross closed in May after nearly two decades of operation.

The new 330-seat restaurant, which includes both indoor and patio seating in a variety of casual settings, has retained the metal hangar and concrete buildings and foundations of the former salvage yard while adding locally made and unique bars, picnic tables and seating around wood-fired grills and a giant trailer be to retain the unique character of the Southside attraction.

"State of Confusion is all about levity and fun with the highest quality, authentic food and fusion of flavors and dishes that you can't get anywhere else," said Allen Corey, CEO of Square One Holdings. "We traveled to Peru, the birthplace of ceviche, to understand ceviche; to New Orleans to craft the best muffuletta bread and bologna, and up and down the East Coast to curate the best seafood boils."

Corey, a former Miller & Martin attorney and president of the Craftworks chain of breweries and restaurants, said his new company, Square One, is committed to offering new and innovative restaurant concepts to reflect the communities in which they operate.

"What's important to us is to make sure that anything we do, especially in our hometown here in Chattanooga, is unique and something you don't already see here," he said. "If we can cultivate it and show that it works, we might expand that brand after that."

Estate of Confusion, which operated as a junkyard for artists, historical buffs and remodelers for 18 years before its closing last year, became a unique fixture of the redeveloping Southside.

"That was a place and "State of Confusion" is a state of mind," Corey said, stressing that the new restaurant is designed to stress fun, levity and uniqueness.

The nearly 11,000-square-foot restaurant will be open for lunch, dinner, brunch and special occasions and will offer both sit-down meals or just a place to hang out and sip ice-cold beer (served in ice buckets), cocktails or aguas frescas — a traditional chilled Spanish beverage of water and fruit.

Two bars with inside seating will open up to the outside and face each other across the patio and State of Confusion will have its own sugar cane expeller to make its mojitos — a cocktail made from white rum, sugar cane juice, lime juice, soda water and mint.

At the front of the new restaurant in the former Main Street storefront, a small bar and takeout facility is being developed known as the Pump House. Sit-down dining will be in both the bigger building on the rear of the lot as well as outdoors in a giant patio, where the restaurant developers plan to put in Igloos in the winter for patio dining in colder weather.

To offer something new to the Chattanooga market (and also not available yet even in Atlanta or Nashville), Corey and his team decided to bring top the market a seafood dish popular in the Pacific coastal regions of Latin America known as ceviche, which is considered a national dish in Peru. Ceviche is made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices, such as lemon or lime, and spiced with ají or chili peppers.

"This is something totally unique for our area and we think will be very popular," Corey said. "It's light eating, very healthy and sophisticated and has a unique and great taste — if you do it right."

To ensure that State of Confusion offers the best ceviche, the company sent Bill Heckler and Scott King, chefs for Square One who previously worked at Gordon Biersch and The Stir, to study with a half dozen top ceviche chefs for 10 days in Lima Peru earlier this year.

"We really had a crash course with some of the best ceviche chefs in Lima because we want to make sure we offer genuine, Peruvian-style ceviche here in Chattanooga," Heckler said.

State of Confusion will use fresh fish flown into Chattanooga from around the world for its signature dish.

The ceviche fish, which is cooked but served cold, will be complemented with Peruvian popcorn and ice cream offerings, Corey said.

The new restaurant also plans to offer Argentina-style wood-grilled entrees, including house-ground burgers,steaks and seafood and its own unique Bologna.

Most of the menu entrees will range in price from $9 to $10 for sandwiches up to $30 for the most expensive ceviche, steak and seafood items. Appetizers will start around $6.50.

"This will be a very relaxed atmosphere and we want this to be very unique but still fun and approachable for most everyone," said Robert Werk, chief operating officer for Square One.

To prepare other menu items, restaurant crews traveled to New Orleans and Miami to study menus and food and drink preparation styles and techniques.

On weekends, State of Confusion will offer a brunch menu, including mimosas made from its aguas frescas, served alongside breakfast strata, South American egg dishes and recipes using ancient grains and fruit.

"Brunch at Stir (which Corey opened in the Chattanooga Choo Choo in 2016) is a staple for many Chattanoogans and visitors to our city, and State of Confusion is going to take that to a whole new level," Corey said.

Jamie Walton, the former head of culinary training at Craftsworks and one of the principle leaders of Square One, said the State of Confusion "is truly unique and I don't think there is another space quite like this.

"When we started out on this project we knew we wanted authentic cuisine so we traveled to Peru, New Orleans and Miami to be able to deliver these specific culinary items," Walton said. "We also want to have the levity and the ultimate hang out place that is very casual to allow you to have this great made-from-scratch, unique food in a very fun atmosphere."

The new restaurant plans to open Aug. 20 and will begin hiring most of its staff this month, Werk said.

State of Confusion is one of the biggest restaurants to open on the Southside and is among a half dozen eateries that have or will soon open in and around Main Street and the Choo Choo in the past couple of years.

Chattanooga restaurateur Tim Hennon plans to open a similar-sized restaurant and sports bar in the Choo Choo later this year.

"There are a lot more choices, but as Station Street and this whole area develops as an entertainment area, we think that will attract even more people," Corey said.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.