EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one in a series of reviews featuring our staff's favorite places to dine. They are either go-to spots we frequent for good service and conversation, the favorite dishes we order over and over or the one-of-a-kind Chattanooga dives that make us love our Scenic City that much more.
When asked my favorite place to eat in Chattanooga, Sluggo's is at the top of the list — not only for its diversity of tasty eats but in the way it asks me to rethink vegetarian cooking and get creative with pairing flavors.
I became a vegetarian almost eight years ago on a whim, much to my parents' frustration when my food decision became their challenge. Now grown and living on my own, the challenge remains to try to balance convenience with taste and variety. Sluggo's captures all those with its dense menu ranging from classic sandwiches gone veggie to more adventurous bowls and takes on ethnic dishes.
When I first visited Sluggo's, I passed it. With only a wooden sign outside, the restaurant was hard to see wedged in the strip on Cherokee Boulevard. The space is humble on the inside, with five booths and a few tables. Outdoor dining is much more developed, with a two-story walk-up in back and a few tables out front.
While the interior is showing its use, the character of the place remains intact and ever trendy. Murals outside give Sluggo's edge and appeal, and I recommend the used bookshelf for all ages, tastes and senses of humor.
If you go
› Where: Sluggo’s, 505 Cherokee Blvd.
› Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday
› Prices: $2.99-$10.99
› Alcohol: Yes
› For more information: 423-752-5224
Sluggo's is independent dining for the most part. You order at the front and then pick your table. Dishes are carried out to you, and there's no need to bus your table (although I do recommend al fresco diners bring dishes inside). Most of the drinks are self-serve. With its small interior, Sluggo's is perfect for date nights or catching up with friends.
The wait staff is friendly, and while the front of the house is independent, the staff does check in on you regularly for any last-minute splurges.
My favorite easy entry to Sluggo's for first-timers is the Ginger Curry Bowl ($9.50). Made with grilled tofu, sauteed cauliflower, onions, peppers, mushrooms and carrots in a yellow ginger curry sauce, this has become a staple for me because the vegetables have bite. I've eaten my fair share of oily broccoli at restaurants whose vegetarian options begin and end at the sides menu. Sluggo's makes cauliflower exciting with its subtle kick from the ginger and perfect texture against softer pieces like the tofu and rice.
For those not convinced that vegetables are filling, take the Culture Club (solo $7.99; plate $9.50) for lunch and get schooled. This triple-decker is an ode to veggie meats. I normally pair it with a salad because, while veggie, the sandwich is heavy and needs some balance when pairing in a plate.
My favorite, though, must be the Pesto Portabello Quesadilla (solo $7.25; plate $9.25). The quesadilla is simple, with only a few ingredients, and yet, that makes it shine all the more. The mushrooms taste truly meaty, and when you pair it with a side of pinto beans, I almost forget that Chattanooga is lacking in its Mexican eateries.
So whether you keep it simple and dip your feet in with an appetizer of zucchini cakes ($7.25) or go for broke with the Mushroom Walnut Burger ($7.50 solo), Sluggo's diversity can't be beat. And if you're veggie like I am, you'll be pinching yourself that you can eat everything on the menu.
Sluggo's captures everything I love about being a vegetarian. Despite having eaten around the menu, I've never had a bad meal, or leftovers for that matter. It's a perfect date night and well worth fighting Frazier Avenue traffic to get to.
Contact Cameron Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 423-757-6509.