EDITOR'S NOTE: It's patio weather. So Times Free Press writers are sharing their favorite local spots for al fresco dining in a series appearing each week of May in Chattanooga Now.
When considering a location for a pleasant meal outside with a view of Chattanooga's valley, there are surprisingly few options considering all the mountains surrounding the city. There are places with a view of the river, of course, and a few places in downtown with rooftop dining options.
Then there is Sugar's Ribs.
Owners Lawton and Karen Haygood are veterans of the Chattanooga dining scene. They also own Canyon Grill on Lookout Mountain and The Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar Restaurant on the Tennessee River, and their expertise is on display at all three establishments.
Located on the side of Missionary Ridge just off Interstate 24, Sugar's Ribs has been a place for great barbecue since 2007. It has developed a loyal following for its catering and for the restaurant, which features views of Lookout Mountain and Chattanooga as well as fantastic sunsets.
Plus, they have goats, so you know it's great.
If you go
› Where: Sugar’s Ribs, 2450 15th Ave.
› Hours: 11 a.m.- 9 p.m. daily
› Price range: $2.25 sides to $29.95 for full slab of spare ribs
› Alcohol: Beer
› Phone: 423-826-1199
› Online: www.sugarsribs.com
Sugar's is located in what once was the Pancake Man Restaurant near King's Lodge Motel, which is being renovated and converted into apartments. There's a counter for ordering your meal and ample seating inside or on a covered patio, both with a great view. In the lower part of the building, Sugar's offers a party room for private functions.
The restaurant is perched on the side of Missionary Ridge, and that's where the goats come in. The goats keep the grass and brush trimmed on the ridge's incline while also providing entertainment to guests in the restaurant.
The sound of traffic on I-24 can be a bit distracting, but the food (and the goats) make up for this minor inconvenience. If you've never enjoyed a meal on a deck while watching goats eat kudzu, you don't know what you're missing. It's a real treat.
Sugar's Ribs is all about meat, and the staff is serious about it. Whole chickens can be seen cooking on the rotisserie when you walk in the door, and the mouthwatering smell of cooked meat lets you know the staff know their business.
The menu features plates of ribs, brisket, pork, sausage, chicken and catfish ($8.95-$29.95), and there are sandwiches ($8.75) and tacos ($3.95) featuring the same meats as well. It's a carnivore's dream.
A wide variety of side items ($1.25-$2.25) include slaw, beans, turnip greens and Sugar's special Mo' Rock'n Stew, a delicious soup similar to Brunswick stew. Other items on the menu are salad, jalapeno poppers and crispy potato nachos.
Jesslyn's Banana Pudding ($4.25) is the highlight of the dessert menu at Sugar's Ribs. Soft drinks, tea and beer are the beverage options.
For a late spring lunch, I decided to go with the taco sampler of three tacos with pork, chicken and brisket ($12.95) and a side of Mo' Rock'n Stew. Tacos at Sugar's Ribs are similar to traditional Mexican street tacos, but with a barbecue twist.
Each taco was served on flour tortillas and topped with lime crema, grilled sweet onion radish, queso fresco, roasted salsa and cilantro. The meats were all prepared well, and the toppings made a nice presentation. Topped off with a bit of Sugar's signature sauces, those were some good tacos.
The Mo' Rock'n Stew was served with a jalapeno corn muffin and was tasty as well.
The food was so good, it almost distracted me from watching the goats patrolling the side of Missionary Ridge. Almost.
After ordering my meal at the counter, the food was brought by a server who was attentive and made sure that everything was in order and any needed condiments and sauces were available on the table.
After finishing, plates were cleared quickly to round out a great meal with a great view on a beautiful day. The tacos and stew were filling, so dessert had to wait until another visit.
What's not to love about delicious barbecue, amazing side items and goats — all with a beautiful view of the Scenic City? It's the recipe for a perfect meal, if you ask me.
The Haygoods have a great concept with well-prepared food served fast with great service. And the view is amazing whether you visit day or night.
Contact Jim Tanner at JFTanner@gmail.com. Follow him at twitter.com/JFTanner.