In the 11 months since the lavish Westin hotel opened its doors in downtown Chattanooga's West Village, the two-block area has garnered a lot of attention. And for good reason. The emergence of several new and diverse restaurants and shops, along with popular weekend laser shows and live music that close the area's streets to create a street-fair atmosphere, have generated quite a buzz.
It's within this burgeoning dining and entertainment hotspot that the Old Gilman Grill recently debuted. Tucked in a former Gilman Paint showroom, the eatery seamlessly blends contemporary American fare with French classics.
Old Gilman boasts sleek, modern furnishings that incorporate large-scale historic photographs of the city and period Gilman advertising posters. Developers cut no corners in revamping the historic building, and it shows.
If you go
› Where: Old Gilman Grill, 216 W. Eighth St.
› Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.- 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday
› Prices: $8-$59
› Alcohol: Full bar
› Phone: 423-269-7449
› Website: oldgilmangrill.com
The elegant main dining room and another private dining room are warmly lit and can collectively seat about 200. A central bar toward the front of the restaurant serves patrons on all four sides. When weather permits, the front wall rolls up to offer patio access on West Eight Street with five outdoor tables for al fresco dining.
Old Gilman's menu keeps it simple. High-end steaks and seafood are the marquee dishes, but a variety of sandwiches and crepes, ranging from savory to sweet, also beckon.
Social plates with an emphasis on healthy, seasonal dishes include Chilled Jumbo Gulf Shrimp, Heirloom Tomatoes & Basil, Carrot Hummus and Tuna Tartare. A half-dozen salads including the intriguing Antioxidant Salad, which includes lacinato kale, goji berries, blueberries, pistachios, pumpkin seeds and bee pollen tossed with a ginger-blueberry vinaigrette, are other options.
Old Gilman boasts a fairly substantial wine and beer list, including several top-notch, regional craft brews. For diners in the mood for stiffer libations, the restaurant's servers can mix classic cocktails table-side for immediate refreshment.
Upon taking a seat on the patio one fairly warm recent afternoon, I ordered a Hutton & Smith Ignious IPA ($6) and started out with the Deviled Local Farm Eggs ($8) social plate. These decadently rich eggs filled with caramelized onion and crème fraiche and topped with crispy bits of prosciutto are artfully prepared and every bit as good as they look.
I then opted to try the French Dip ($18) with steamed asparagus and Beef Burgundy Crepes ($10).
Old Gilman's French Dip is built with the familiar blueprint of thin-sliced prime rib on a French roll and served with warm au jus and fresh horseradish. The succulent prime rib didn't disappoint, and the zesty bite of the horseradish really makes this something special. The steamed asparagus topped with hollandaise sauce was a good complement.
I also liked the crepes. You can't go wrong with savory beef, bacon and sauteed porcini mushrooms cooked in red wine and wrapped in a flaky, near-perfect pastry. Not too heavy but filling enough to stand on its own. I'll likely try the Wild Mushroom crepes next time.
No complaints. My server, Stephanie, provided friendly, expert service.
Old Gilman Grill is a cool addition to the downtown food scene. Upscale dining in the heart of the action comes at a premium price but, top-to-bottom, they do it right.
Contact Chris Zelk at email@example.com.