EDITOR'S NOTE: Where do you cheer for your favorite football team on fall weekends? This is the first in a series of suggestions by staff writers for local sports bars, pubs and neighborhood dives where the atmosphere and food score with fans.
I'll start off this sports bar review by noting that I don't watch a lot of sports.
I've been known to watch the occasional college football game and sometimes the Super Bowl with all its trappings and hyperbole, but that's about it. I'm not a sports fanatic; I'm more of a music and film kind of guy.
That said, when it was suggested that Chattanooga Now food writers pick a local sports bar to check out as football season gets in full swing, Bud's Sports Bar seemed the obvious choice. A local institution four decades in the making, Bud's is sort of the gold standard for Chattanooga sports bars. I visited an earlier location on Brainerd Road a couple of times many years ago, but had not stopped by the current one until now.
Bud's is housed in the former Steak and Ale restaurant building on Brainerd Road, and it's massive. We stepped into the dark, cavernous, somewhat labyrinthian building around 12:40 on a Sunday afternoon — 40 minutes after they opened — and the parking lot was already filling up. Despite all of the cars outside, it still seemed wide open inside, given the enormous amount of bars and side rooms chock-full of booths and tables throughout the place.
The requisite TVs, tuned in to sporting events of every stripe and occasionally other programs, lined literally every wall. I have never seen so many TVs under one roof, not even in an electronics store.
For those who crave natural light and are not in the mood for sports but still want tavern hospitality, there is a large, covered, open-air bar as well as an adjoining patio with tables and umbrellas, which is where we opted to sit and bask in near perfect fall weather. Signs posted here and there announced that live bands perform most weekends, as well.
Bud's is one of those places that tries to be all things to all people. I don't know how often they hit the mark, but I will say that the menu feels proportional to the size of the building, with a healthy array of salads and wraps on hand — even a plant-based impossible burger — in addition to numerous pub staples including pizzas, burgers and wings. You can also order heartier fare like steak, fried buffalo shrimp and pot roast. And there's a substantial beer list, of course.
If you go
› Where: Bud’s Sports Bar, 5751 Brainerd Road
› Hours: 11 a.m.-12:30 a.m. Monday, 11 a.m.-1:30 a.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Friday-Saturday, noon-12:30 a.m. Sunday
› Price range: $5-$14
› Alcohol: Full bar
› Phone: 423-499-9878
› Website: budssportsbar.com
We started out with a Blue Moon draft ($4.30), unsweetened tea ($1.99) and an order of stuffed mushrooms ($7). The five large button mushroom caps, broiled and filled with crab meat, bits of peppers and topped with a dusting of shredded Parmesan cheese, were served warm and had a nice, mild flavor. A good-sized app for two.
Not in the mood for pizza or wings, we perused the substantial sandwich offerings, which included, among many others, a triple decker club ($8), French dip ($9), chicken salad ($8) and German sausage ($8). I decided on the Godfather sandwich ($9) and Susie ordered the Philly cheesesteak ($9).
The Godfather is made of thinly sliced salami, ham and pepperoni, basil pesto, provolone cheese and sliced pepperoncini. It was served on a nicely grilled ciabatta bread and came with Italian dressing on the side for dipping. Kind of similar to a muffaletta, and one of the better sandwiches I've had in town in some time.
As good as the Godfather was, the Philly cheesesteak was ever-so-slightly better. This Northeastern classic built with the expected thinly sliced roast beef, onions, peppers and melted Swiss cheese was done right. The tender pieces of roast beef — served on a large and lightly grilled hoagie roll and blended with perfectly sauteéd peppers and onions — had great flavor and was portioned big enough for probably two meals.
Both sandwiches were served with dill pickle spears on plates heaping with fresh kettle chips, which were tasty and offered a lot of crunch.
Our server, Dakota, was attentive and got everything out to us in a timely manner.
I don't know if I'll be back, given all of the other places for food and drink around town that are more my speed, but I can say that I was totally satisfied with our order and would recommend Bud's to anyone who wants to get out of the house and enjoy countless dining options while watching sports on TV.
Contact Chris Zelk at firstname.lastname@example.org.