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Two starters, Potato Chip Nachos and Savory Monkey Bread, are served in cast-iron skillets. The nachos feature a light dusting of toppings that could be more evenly distributed, complemented with an excellent cheese dip.

With a variety of dining and drinking options already available in Chattanooga's growing Southside district, new eateries must bring a new taste or added flair to stand out. Main Street's State of Confusion isn't confused on how to do that.

Mixing local, comfort dishes with Peruvian cuisine prepared on authentic Argentine grills, the eatery provides an upscale dining experience in a casual, inviting setting, bringing a new taste to historic Southside.

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The Butcher's Butter Steak at State of Confusion is plated on a cast-iron serving platter alongside Confusion Potatoes — a medley of white, red and sweet potatoes cubed, seasoned and cooked in a skillet with green peppers and either seasonal vegetables or grilled asparagus.

THE SPACE

Indoor and outdoor bars, communal-style long tables, fire pits and lawn chairs greet visitors before they even step foot into the restaurant. With an open interior, even diners who choose to sit at a dimly lit, intimate table inside might still feel like they are sitting outside.

The open atmosphere allows for fluid conversation and a great setting for anything from date night to a casual meet-up with friends or an after-work happy hour. With a second covered bar, long lines or crowds at the bar don't seem to be a problem, and enough covered roofing prevents bad weather from fouling up any outing.

Exposed wooden beams across the ceiling, an open kitchen, even outdoor heaters showcase an attention to detail that adds to the ambiance.

THE MENU

State of Confusion boasts trips to Peru to perfect its recipes and gather local ideas and ingredients right on its menu.

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The Skirt Steak Chimi at State of Confusion is plated on a cast-iron serving platter alongside sides of Confusion Potatoes, fries and grilled vegetables.

The restaurant offers several variations of Peruvian ceviche, alongside old favorites so there's something for everyone — but come early. Even on weeknights, the ceviche can sometimes run out early, along with the limited supply of ribeye and butter steaks.

Starters, $7-$13, range from pull-apart cheesy monkey bread to fried calamari steak strips. Entrees include hand-cut steaks and dishes made from scratch with details such as substituting bison burgers for a traditional house burger.

Entrees, $11-$39, range from sandwich offerings like a traditional shrimp po'boy for $12.95 to grilled bison filets for $38.95.

True to an authentic South American experience are ceviche rolls, Arroz Con Mariscos (a seafood dish featuring scallops, shrimp, mussels and calamari on a bed of risotto and yellow rice) and Peruvian ice cream made with the Brazilian lucuma fruit for dessert.

THE FOOD

With two friends along, we were able to try a variety of plates including the traditional hamburger ($12), Skirt Steak Chimi ($19), Butcher's Butter Steak ($27) and the NOLA Shrimp Po'boy ($13) as well as two starters. We shared the Savory Monkey Bread ($7) and Potato Chip Nachos ($11).

Many of the items come on wooden serving plates in cast-iron skillets, piping hot from the kitchen. Both steaks were simple and traditional, but good takes on common dishes.

The Butcher's Butter Steak was tender and not fatty; but the best aspect of the meal was the unique Confusion Potatoes, a medley of white, red and sweet potatoes cubed, seasoned and cooked in a skillet with green peppers.

If you go

› Where: State of Confusion, 301 E. Main St.

› Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday, 10:30 a.m.-1 a.m. Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-midnight Sunday; 3-5 p.m. happy hour Monday-Friday

› Price range: $7 for cheesy bread appetizer or avocado toast to $39 for a bison steak

› Alcohol: Full bar

› Phone: 423-760-3473

› Website: www.soconfusion.com

THE SERVICE

It was a Wednesday night, so the crowd was a little small and quiet, but there were more than enough seats and servers to keep up the pace. The attention to detail extends to table service and the menu, which highlights gluten-free options. Waiters take special care for substitutions or food allergies.

With a brunch menu, some outdoor games and space for live music, I look forward to stopping by on the weekend to see how crowds mingle on the patio.

THE VERDICT

Like its Confusion Potatoes, State of Confusion is a medley of atmospheres, tastes and options for all diners whether one is looking for a draft beer and good burger on the patio or an intimate steak dinner with the details just so. The eatery adds a unique location to the city's growing Southside.

Contact Meghan Mangrum at mmangrum@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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