Over the last year, Chattanooga's growing food scene has seen the addition of everything from Southern comfort meat-and-threes to new coffee shops to fancy breweries. And the future holds even more — a pizzeria from Nashville, a Knoxville favorite wing joint and a locally sourced artisanal butcher, for starters.
We compiled a list of the new and coming spots, along with some of their more interesting backstories, so dig in.
Davis Wayne's. This upscale meat-and-three features favorites from the business owners' Dipped Fresh Catering, like slow-cooked pot roast and chicken Parmesan, alongside healthier takes on Southern standbys, like collard greens braised with smoked turkey tail instead of ham hocks.
Soon-to-be hotspots, i.e. even more restaurants! (we hope)
* The owner of the Red Wolves soccer team is building a 5,500-seat stadium in East Ridge — and an array of restaurants, apartments, hotels, condominiums and stores to help draw fans and residents.
* The John Ross Building, a four-story structure on Fourth Street between Market and Broad streets, could see a restaurant, entertainment venue, office space and even a boutique hotel.
* The former 112-acre Alstom site downtown has been envisioned to include a 10,000-square-foot food hall and music venue, a brewpub, child care center, townhomes and workforce housing.
Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B. Full-service barbecue restaurant featuring all the classics alongside nachos, burgers, soups, salads, wings and more, with a drive-thru for food on the go.
Bridgeman's Chophouse. The renovated Porter's remains a classic, upscale steakhouse with fresh seafood and family-style sides served amid elegant décor.
Mad Priest Coffee & Cocktails. The expanded location of the local coffee roaster serves simple sandwiches and salads, and internationally-inspired small plates like South American meatballs. Stop by for the décor if nothing else, described as "Old World-meets-Ottoman Empire-meets-French Revolution."
Naked River Brewing Co. A microbrewery with a food menu featuring Texas-style barbecue and sides.
The Cheesecake Factory. This well-known upscale casual chain features more than 250 fresh-made menu items that span the gamut from tacos to Asian takes to elevated Americana, and specialty cheesecakes by the slice or whole.
Bantam + Biddy. A casual, family-friendly eatery featuring regional, all-natural and pastured poultry for breakfast, lunch and dinner alongside Southern staples like meatloaf and banana bread waffles.
* Together Cafe
Together Cafe offers an array of tea, coffee, specialty drinks and food, but it also offers something unexpected: help to end human trafficking. Minus overhead costs for supplies like ingredients, cups and employee salaries, the profits from every drink or meal purchased at the cafe on Orchard Knob Avenue go toward helping women and children in need.
The chicly appointed cafe and coffee shop was started by the local faith-based Together Coalition, with The Zion Project founder Deven Wallace leading the way. Wallace has spent over a decade fighting human trafficking internationally. Last year, she turned her attention to Chattanooga after she and her daughter saw a victim in the city.
"It opened our eyes to the fact that this issue is here. It just looks different than what we thought," Wallace said in an interview with the Times Free Press just after opening the cafe late last year.
The Zion Project has been working for over a decade to end human trafficking throughout Tennessee. In May, Together Cafe donated $5,000 to WillowBend Farms in Cleveland to help purchase a home for victims of sex trafficking as a place of refuge. Even the name "Together Cafe" can be stylized "ToGetHer," to reiterate the message and mission of protecting women around the world.
The cafe building is owned by Redemption to the Nations Church, which rents the cozy space outfitted with couches and rustic furniture to the coalition for free.
The cafe utilizes regional roasters for its pour-overs, espressos and mocha lattes. The specialty drinks menu features items like the Campfire Latte made with espresso and steamed milk, maple syrup and toasted marshmallow; and the Turmeric Latte with steamed oat milk, black pepper, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon. Fresh baked cookies, bonbons, pastries and muffins round out the all-day menu. Lunch is available from the nearby church's on-campus cafe. Items including chicken fingers, quesadillas, burgers, BLTs, chicken sandwiches and half a dozen varieties of fries can be ordered and eaten at Together Cafe Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The cafe is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 801 S. Orchard Knob Ave.
Naked Foods. Eat the rainbow: macro-balanced meals of lean proteins and complex carbs accompanied by slews of vegetables — dishes like coconut-crusted chicken tenders served with a cauliflower rice blend and pineapple pico.
Daebak Nooga Korean BBQ. Meals so authentic the names are unfamiliar. But the photos are beautiful.
Gate 11 Distillery. The distillery's cocktail bar provides a range of products, along with tours and classes. It also offers small plates made with ingredients from local restaurants like Main Street Meats and the Bleu Fox Cheese Shop.
Drake's. An elevated sports bar offering traditional American-style pub food including hand-pressed burgers, mini sandwiches, Sriracha wings, tacos — and an extensive sushi menu.
Aubrey's. "American faire with a Southern bias to it." Think chicken fingers, pastas, seafood and hamburgers.
Newk's Eatery. A quick casual spot with grilled and toasted sandwiches, more than a dozen entrée salads, kettle-batch soups and hand-rolled pizzas for lunch and dinner.
Dida's Pizza. Classic and build-your-own pizzas made using fresh dough and signature sauce for dine-in, carryout or delivery, plus salads, wings, fried appetizers, and desserts including cannolis and tiramisu.
Taqueria Jalisco – ANIA. A chic, family-owned Mexican restaurant and specialty tequila bar offering truly traditional food.
Mike's Tavern. A concept by the creators of Mike's Hole in the Wall downtown that focuses more on food, emphasizing traditional tavern fare with a few culinary inspirations from the South.
Melodee's. A family-oriented meat-and-three featuring signature hamburgers and a variety of home-cooked Southern foods, sandwiches and wings.
Stevarino's. Primarily Italian fare with a lot of salads and hoagies along with New York-style pizza.
* Brown Bag
In 2009, the former manager of a Qdoba in Knoxville began looking for a service that offered healthy, affordable lunches. Turned off by the limited options of catered lunches, which were largely relegated to Mexican food or barbecue, Peter Brown started Brown Bag Catering in his garage.
Within two years, business had grown enough that Brown moved into a formal location in Knoxville, and began offering lunch in addition to catering.
At his Chattanooga store on Gunbarrel Road, Brown Bag offers fresh catering options and an in-store lunch menu featuring things like a steak sandwich with provolone, caramelized onions and house-made steak sauce and horseradish; and a baby spinach salad topped with fresh blackberries, mandarin oranges, Parmesan cheese, Craisins and poppy seed dressing made using Brown's mother's recipe.
About four years ago, while recovering from a broken leg, he was inspired by the simple act of friends and family offering to bring him food while he was injured. So he came up with the idea of Brown Bag Blessings, offering everyone the opportunity to deliver nutritious food to a loved one in need. Simply call a day in advance, and the restaurant will prepare a meal for six, free of charge.
"We're so blessed to be as successful as we've been, and we thought this would be a fun way to give back and involve the community," Brown said in an interview with the Times Free Press this summer.
Brown Bag serves lunch Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 1924 Gunbarrel Road, Suite 110.
Fulin's Asian Cuisine. A family-owned upscale Asian concept that fuses authentic Chinese and Japanese dishes that are a sophisticated departure from traditional Asian eateries.
Paloma Bar de Tapas. A modern-looking small space offering traditional Spanish small plates like tuna-stuffed peppers, chorizo lollipops and charcuterie boards, alongside craft cocktails.
Buddy's Bar-B-Q. A quick casual barbecue spot offering dine-in, takeout/to-go, drive-thru and large bulk orders.
* Big Kahuna Wings
Growing up, Matt Beeler's family only made wings during football games, until his parents took over a deli in Knoxville in the '80s.
"My dad would invite people to tailgates," says Beeler, now 44. "In having that around for so long and so many trying it, everybody in the family knew it was gold."
Deciding to branch out, his parents sold wings alongside hoagies, tacos and other items at their eatery. While the deli wasn't a success, Beeler says, the dry rub on the wings was.
Using that same dry rub blend — an old family recipe spanning generations — Beeler opened Big Kahuna Wings on the University of Tennessee at Knoxville campus, and two weeks later, won Best Wings in UTK's Kappa Delta War of the Wings in 1997.
"We do not ever toss our wings," says Beeler, who is now bringing the award-winning flavor to Chattanooga with a location near the Tennessee Aquarium. "We make 20 in-house sauces that are used for dipping, but I grew up eating the wings by themselves."
At his first location in Knoxville, he started experimenting, throwing the seasoning on fries and burgers. "It's fantastic on all different kinds of food," he boasts. He developed seven other blends and began marketing BKW Seasonings. Hosting pop-up tailgates at Food City locations, Beeler started bottling those blends and selling them at groceries across the South.
In 2014, he opened a second location in Knoxville.
Aside from the wings, Beeler says the most popular items are the Kahuna Pig Fries topped with hickory-smoked pulled pork, bacon, an in-house-made cheddar cheese and served with garlic sour cream; and the Southern Caviar Burger with fresh pimento, cheddar cheese, applewood-smoked bacon and garlic aioli.
Beeler says he's all about housemade ingredients and locally sourced bread and meats: "Whatever you order, it won't be secondary to the wings."
The name "Big Kahuna Wings" pays homage to Knoxville native Quentin Tarantino. Beeler originally landed on "Big Orange Wings," in honor of UT and the bright orange hue the wings take on once doused in the seasoning, but when friends asked what he'd do if he wanted to expand across the South, where UT might not be so popular, he went back to the drawing board. While watching "Pulp Fiction," he was inspired by Tarantino's fictional Hawaiian-themed joint, Big Kahuna Burgers.
Moving to Chattanooga was an easy choice for Beeler, who attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in the '90s to play golf. "When the opportunity to expand outside of Knoxville appeared, I knew I wanted to come here," he says. "I always wanted in on downtown.
"Hopefully they'll enjoy what we bring them."
Beeler expected to open by the end of September at 203 W. Aquarium Way.
The Juicy Crab. A New Orleans-inspired eatery with a focus on seafood, everything from crawfish to King crab to green and black mussels.
California Tortilla. A casual, new-to-Chattanooga restaurant chain serving burritos, bowls, street tacos, quesadillas and salads.
When they started Neema Farms two years ago in Cleveland, Tennessee, Chris and Sarah Bilbra started off small, with chickens. They soon added goats; then expanded with cows and pigs.
The farm was born of the couple's desire to know where their meat and produce comes from — a mission they are expanding on with their new venture.
Last December, the Bilbras heard of a new building going up in Cambridge Square in Ooltewah, and they knew exactly what they wanted to do next: open a butcher shop. With widespread public debate surrounding pesticides, food sources' diets, additives, hormone injections and more, Chris Bilbra says there's a renewed need for the craft.
He got into the restaurant business at age 15 as a dishwasher, and by 19 had worked his way up to sous chef. In the kitchens he worked, he was called on to butcher the animals. "I've always loved the butchery side of the business," Bilbra says. "If you make the wrong cut, it can cost you money. I know what I'm doing. It's almost like doing surgery on an animal."
At his butcher shop, Bilbra plans to offer lamb, pork, beef and chicken along with local dairy and local produce, partnering with farms within 150 miles of Chattanooga. "When you see a piece of meat in my case, there's a good chance I had my hand on that animal when it was alive, and there's a 100% chance I was on the farm it came from and I know how that farm is run," he says.
The shop will be twofold, comprising a butchery and a deli. Customers will be able to pick up prime cuts of locally sourced meats and hand-sliced lunch meat to take home, or sit down to an ever-changing lunch menu. Whatever he has on hand for the day will guide the menu, he says.
With his chef's background, Bilbra says he wants to educate customers on the various options and versatility of meat. He's also looking forward to helping families prep their dinners."The cool thing is if you want a fillet and I'm out, I can help you meal plan."
Dining options may expand later on to feed his passion for running a kitchen, but his main goal is to serve the community by offering a space centered on personal service. The focus for the entire project is centered on locality and the kinds of relationships that come with that, he says. Aside from utilizing farms in the area, Bilbra has found a place to get his custom knives and is buying furniture from his brother-in-law. "It's going to be a true local spot," he says.
The Bilbras expect to open Spek in mid-November.
Chipotle Mexican Grill. A fast-casual chain that serves up burritos, burrito bowls, tacos, salads and is well known for its chips and guacamole.
1885 at Cambridge. Second location of St. Elmo-based "Southern coastal" restaurant offering everything from award-winning wings to signature shrimp and grits to quality steaks made with locally sourced ingredients.
Champy's – East Ridge. A local franchise founded by Mississippi Delta natives that focuses on "world famous" fried chicken and Southern sides.
Spring or summer 2020
Dave & Buster's. A well-known chain offering American-style food and beverage items combined with the latest games and attractions.
Slim & Husky's Pizza Beeria. A fast casual and gourmet pizza joint serving signature artisan pizzas, custom-built pizzas and cinnamon rolls made with locally sourced ingredients.