ADDRESS: 149 River St.
HOURS: Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed Sunday through Tuesday.
Located beneath Clumpie's on the edge of Coolidge Park, Cashew is a quintessential clean-eating café. Specializing in all things vegan, its recipes include a wide variety of options such as the Southwest loaded sweet potato and the beet burger, as well as donuts, cookies and cupcakes baked fresh daily and proudly displayed across its order counter.
But don't mistake its plant-based menu as offering only a light meal; Cashew's meatless sammies are some of the heartiest this town has to offer, and its meatless takes on tried-and-true favorites give the original recipes a run for their money. For example, during my recent visit to Cashew, I ordered the special of the day: The portobello Reuben, made with strips of marinated portobello, locally sourced sauerkraut, house-made vegan cheese and Thousand Island dressing, all served on toasted rye.
I ordered my meal to go, and while I waited, I surveyed the space — which feels as fresh as the menu. Trimmed with spring-green paint, Cashew's dining area is cozy and cute. A mural of a purple cabbage leaf covered one wall.
Its customers appeared surprisingly diverse. Sure, there were a couple of young, bearded men sporting Teva sandals whom one might expect to find there, but I also spotted what looked to be a mother-daughter duo on a lunch date, as well as an older couple whom I sized up as tourists. That couple dined at the lunch bar with a view that peers out toward the park — which gave me an idea.
Once my order was up I carried it into Coolidge Park, where I dined on a park bench by the water. My lunch was deliciously messy, dripping with sweet and tangy Thousand Island dressing, but it was a mess I felt good about. Between my healthful meal, the river before me and the bridges above me, it was a satiating experience — and one that is quintessentially Chattanooga.