If you go
› Where: The Mad Priest Coffee & Cocktails, 719 Cherry St., Suite 100
› Hours: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 7 a.m.-midnight Friday; 8 a.m.-midnight Saturday; closed Sunday
› Price range: $2-$17
› Alcohol: Full bar service with specialty cocktails and craft beer
› Phone: 423-541-1395
› Website: www.madpriestcha.com
The downtown block on Cherry Street between Seventh and Eighth streets has long been one of the more consistent spots for drinking and dining in the central downtown district of Chattanooga. Chattanooga Billiard Club is a longtime fixture on the block, and the corner of Cherry and Seventh streets was home to the first Krystal hamburger restaurant, which opened in 1932.
New establishments have given the block even more life, with Burns Tobacconist providing a nicotine fix and craft beers to the smoking set, and new speakeasy London Calling becoming a popular place as well.
Joining the scene on Cherry Street is The Mad Priest Coffee & Cocktails, a second location of Mad Priest Coffee Roasters, which has been roasting and selling coffee since 2016 at its Broad Street location. The new location, which opened last fall, expands the menu beyond coffee to specialty cocktails and a small, but interesting, food menu.
Co-owners Michael Rice and Matt Sears raised the money for the new location using a Kickstarter campaign, according to a Times Free Press article from the opening of The Mad Priest Coffee & Cocktails. The new location continues Mad Priest's commitment to good coffee and highlighting the plight of refugees around the world.
The Mad Priest Coffee & Cocktails manages to successfully merge the coffee shop vibe with a classy cocktail bar. The bar area is split pretty much down the middle functionally, with high-end coffee and espresso equipment at the coffee counter and a full cocktail bar using the bar top from the legendary Yesterday's restaurant on Patten Parkway.
The dining space is dimly lit, but comfortable, with small tables, a few booths and a sitting area with sofas in addition to the bar area. When warmer weather arrives, a back patio will provide more seating options.
The feel of the place is somewhat different with a sense of being a part of another culture while still feeling comfortable for an evening of coffee, drinks or a light meal.
Mad Priest Coffee & Cocktails serves a light breakfast menu from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. ($2-$6) overlapping with lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. ($6-$10).
A Monte Cristo sandwich ($9) and a prosciutto and fig sandwich ($10) look to be interesting choices for lunch. There are a variety of interesting salads as well ($7.50-$8).
A full menu of specialty coffee drinks is available and the cocktail menu is diverse and exotic, with an interesting variety of house drinks appealing to a wide variety of tastes. A good selection of craft beer is also available.
For evening dining, a selection of small plates are offered after 5 p.m. ($8-$17), with a Mediterranean and Asian feel to the menu. A kebab plate, spring rolls and a charcuterie board of fresh meats and cheeses are among choices for a light meal.
For a Friday evening dinner in mid-January, I chose the South-Asian Meatball plate ($10) for a meal with a college friend just returning to the United States from Germany who is relocating to Chattanooga. My friend chose the kebab plate ($17).
Beef meatballs covered in a spicy, tomato-based curry sauce were served over steamed rice. The seasonings gave the meat a spicy kick without being too hot, and the rice was fresh and light. It was filling, but not overly heavy, which made for a nice evening meal to start the weekend.
Interestingly, the kebab meat was not served on skewers, as one might expect. The tender lamb was served with hummus, feta and flatbread and could have easily been a plate for sharing with others instead of a meal for one.
On an early Friday evening, The Mad Priest Coffee & Cocktails was busy with a mix of people out for a drink with friends and those enjoying a meal with a beer or cocktails. The server made sure we had water and drinks and our meal was served quickly and fresh.
The mixologists at the bar, as well as the server, were knowledgeable about the cocktails on the menu and were able to offer good advice when deciding what to order.
The Mad Priest Coffee & Cocktails is trying to be a lot of things at the same time. Coffee shop, cocktail bar and a small restaurant serving from morning until night while offering an atmosphere unique to Chattanooga. Perhaps surprisingly, the concept doesn't feel too busy. There's something for everyone, and room to experience the establishment in whatever way you prefer.
If you're looking for something different for a quick meal, a cocktail or even just a coffee drink, The Mad Priest Coffee & Cocktails is worth a visit.
Contact Jim Tanner at JFTanner@gmail.com. Follow him at twitter.com/JFTanner.