If you've never been to the Chatt-R-Bug in Hixson, you should stop by sometime.
The place almost looks like it has been plucked from the Old West, or at least a movie set. The all-wood construction and tin roofing — not to mention the train track across the road — make you half expect to hear spurs on the porch. It's wrapped in the shade of towering trees along a two-lane road with a gravel lot for parking. It feels secluded. Lonely even.
But inside is a different story.
If you go
› Where: Twins Bakery & Cafe (at Chatt-R-Bug), 5231 Wilbanks Drive, Hixson.
› Phone: 423-842-0905.
› Email: email@example.com.
› Website: squareup.com/store/Twinsbakery.
› Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
› Price range: $2.50 (hot dog) to $11 (four-salad plate); lunch bar is $8, which includes drink.
Chatt-R-Bug, which specializes in antiques and custom furniture, is actually the anchor of a small suite of retailers that includes a baby boutique, art studio and a cafe. I stopped in recently for a shopping fix when I discovered that the cafe space had changed hands.
I'm on a see-food diet, so when I wandered into Twins Bakery & Cafe and saw food, it suddenly felt like lunchtime.
The dessert counter grabbed my attention first. According to its Facebook page, Twins started out as a specialty food business, specializing in caramel apples, fudge, chocolate-covered candies and cookies. Owners Jessica and Keith Miller, parents of Twins, are regulars at Chattanooga Market.
When they opened the cafe a couple of months ago, they added the full complement of salads: pimento cheese, chicken, pasta, pea. You can have a serving of those for $3 each, or add them to a $5 spring salad for an additional $2 each.
The brief menu also lists hot dogs and hamburgers for $2.50 and $3.50 respectively.
I was more interested in the day's lunch bar, though. It featured pulled pork barbecue and cornbread muffins on the hot bar; coleslaw, potato salad and a green salad in the cold compartments. It cost $8, which included a drink.
I paid first and was given a sturdy plastic plate. My sweet tea came in a Chinet cup with a sleeve for temperature control. I appreciated having metal utensils when meat was on the menu.
The food bar was small — just the five items — but more than adequate for lunch. I dipped a little of everything. I probably didn't need both a green salad and coleslaw, but I didn't want to miss out on any tasty nibbles.
There was a bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce for the pork and a choice of three dressings for the salad, a vibrant mix of greens, tomatoes and carrot shreds.
I enjoyed all the food, but the barbecue was my favorite. It had a delicious smoky taste and was good even without the sauce. Jessica Miller says they usually prepare entrees in an oven or slow cooker, but discovered these smoked butts in a trucked-in special at Food City. Delicious.
The coleslaw and potato salad were both seasoned well. Miller says most everything is made in house, with a few exceptions. The coleslaw, for instance, comes from Sam's Club, and she's willing to try ready-cooked specials she finds elsewhere, like the barbecue.
Really, my only objection to my Twins plate was that I didn't have a heavier hand when I dipped the pork.
Selections change daily on the lunch bar. The Facebook page has listed beef stroganoff, country-fried steak and tacos among the other recent offerings.
And I really wish I'd splurged on a big hunk of strawberry fudge before I left. Next time for sure.
Twins is at one end of the building, but all of the business spaces are communal, one leading in to the other, so you can see items in the boutiques as you eat. The art studio is still in the works, so there was nothing of visual interest in that space on this trip.
Twins has a relatively small space, with just three tables. But they're sizable. Keith Miller, who doubled as my server, put my tea at the end of the biggest table, which had four chairs but could have accommodated six. There's a fourth table outside on the porch for al fresco dining.
Tablecloths with abstract designs in bright colors make this a cheery space. I felt like I was on an upscale, indoor picnic.
I think the Twins staff is still working out some kinks, but it's partly because the room may be too small for their interests. Two of the three tables on the day I visited were filled with pans of desserts for the next day's Chattanooga Market. Keith Miller and his mother-in-law, Sharon Schaeffer, scurried to clear off a second table when another party came in to eat.
It was a little awkward, like when you're right in the middle of a project that has cluttered up the house and you have an unexpected visitor. A business shouldn't be caught by surprise when someone comes in for service. But that's probably only a problem on Saturdays when they're trying to stockpile sweets for Sunday.
But they were unfailingly pleasant and helpful. They get extra points for that. And for the bendy straw that came with the tea. I'm weird that way.
I usually stop by Chatt-R-Bug to see what clothes or keepsakes I can find. Twins Bakery & Cafe will be its own destination. Eight bucks for a good meal and a drink is always appealing.
Contact Lisa Denton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6281.