While many of Chattanooga's best restaurants are concentrated in the downtown area, quite a few gems are hidden in smaller neighborhoods around town. Here are some of the best neighborhood restaurants worth leaving downtown for.
While the location and theme of St. Elmo's Purple Daisy Picnic Cafe makes it feel directed at tourists, the restaurant also has quite a local following for its loaded barbecue potatoes, banana pudding, smoked ribs and "rainbow sandwich" made with a surprisingly good combination of chicken salad, pimiento cheese and cucumber salad.
Hidden behind a liquor store in Brainerd, Marsha's Backstreet Cafe is a go-to lunch spot known for its chicken salad, hand-cut fries, hand-breaded chicken tenders, fried pickles, hamburgers and hamburger salads. You'll want to take the chicken salad home in bulk, as many people do.
Another great lunch spot — this one hidden in the Riverview neighborhood — is Vine Street Market. Located in a converted home on Hanover Street (the restaurant was once downtown, on Vine Street), the family-owned restaurant has wonderful salads, sandwiches, casseroles and baked goods.
Red Bank's Pizzeria Cortile offers wood-fired pizzas with unique topping combinations, such as the "Fancy Pants," with a blend of cheeses, country ham, arugula, lemon juice and salt. The restaurant is also known for its wings, cooked sous-vide and then air-fried and topped with a variety of sauces, from traditional buffalo to sweet Thai to the "spontaneous sauce of the moment." Every Sunday starting at 4:30 p.m, Pizzeria Cortile hosts Sunday dinners, when the restaurant prepares a single dish that's not typically on the menu, such as chimichangas or spaghetti and meatballs.
Open since 1946, Couch's is a roadside diner-style restaurant on Old Lee Highway in Ooltewah known for its shaved pork barbecue sandwiches, loaded barbecue "Couch" potatoes, ribs and desserts. People also love the restaurant's sweet tea, which is "just the right amount of sweet."
Head to Olive Branch Mediterranean Foods in East Ridge for home-style Mediterranean dishes such as lemon chicken, spinach pies and melt-in-your mouth baklava. People rave about the fish specials served on Fridays, the gyros and the tzatziki sauce.
Nestled between a railroad track and a gas station in the Rivermont area between North Chattanooga and Hixson, SideTrack is known for its okra chips, chicken piccata and brunch offerings like brioche French toast, beignets and eggs Benedict. SideTrack is the latest restaurant opened by Lawton Haygood, who also owns three other local favorites around town: Boathouse on the Tennessee River, Canyon Grill on the Georgia side of Lookout Mountain and Sugar's Ribs on Missionary Ridge.