This ain't your granddaddy's SouthsideChattanooga neighborhood has food, drink, entertainment and lodging(Or, all the things it didn't have 30 years ago)
This is "Pardon me, boy!" and the first Chattanooga-made spirits since Prohibition. The city's hip hostel, beer brewers and football fan zone.
This is Reggie White Boulevard and East Main Street.
This is the Southside.
Now, for those of a certain age, mention of the Southside conjures up less-than-stellar memories of Chattanooga — more "Dynamo of Dixie" dirty industry than "Gig City" glamour. Not so long ago, it was considered crazy for a pair of entrepreneurs to open a restaurant on Cowart Street because of the neighborhood's reputation.
But like the smog of yesteryear, that Southside is simply history.
"You've really seen one of the worst neighborhoods in town become one of the best neighborhoods in town," said Adam Kinsey, president of Choo Choo Partners LLC, parent company of the Chattanooga Choo Choo.
Today, the Southside is one of Chattanooga's fastest-growing and hippest neighborhoods, and has arguably turned the corner from its long-appointed "turning-the-corner" status.
Or, in the words of Kinsey's father, former Chattanooga mayor and Chattanooga Choo Choo part-owner Jon Kinsey, the Southside is not just up-and-coming, "it's already up-and-here."
A multimillion-dollar upgrade and renovation of the Chattanooga Choo Choo property, for instance — including the installation of nearly 100 studio apartments, and new restaurants and entertainment venues — is wrapping up this year. It's the site of the Comedy Catch stand-up comedy club, which moved from its longtime Brainerd home in 2015.
Across the street from the Choo Choo, meanwhile, is Tennessee Stillhouse, home of Chattanooga Whiskey, the first whiskey legally distilled in Chattanooga since Prohibition, 100 years ago.
Tennessee Stillhouse is where curious travelers or in-the-know locals can engage their eyes, noses and mouths on Chattanooga-made drink, be it the smooth, 90-proof 1816 Reserve, or the more intense, 113-proof 1816 Cask. Hit the tasting bar for a helping of samples, or just shop Chattanooga Whiskey apparel in the lobby.
But the Southside is more than the city's train and elixir heritages.
There's also the newly-opened Gallery 1401 upscale art space and event venue, the about-to-open cinema on Main Street and the Chattanooga Brewing Co. and Jump Park down near Finley Stadium, home of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs football team and Chattanooga Football Club semi-professional soccer team.
There's Feed Co. Table and Tavern restaurant, Clyde's on Main, T-Bone's Sports Cafe, the First Tennessee Pavilion and Chattanooga Market (during warm months). And that's just West Main Street.
Cross over Market Street onto East Main, and there's The Local Juicery and Kitchen, Granfalloon, Conga Latin Food, Bluegrass Grill, The Farmer's Daughter and Copacetic Coffee, Alleia, Main Street Meats, Flying Squirrel, Niedlov's Breadworks, Slick's Burgers and Velo Coffee Roasters.
Taking advantage of all this are the locals, the folks living in the Jefferson Heights neighborhood, or in townhomes along tree-lined Cowart Street. There are the Passenger Flats tenants and in the near future, those who will call a new, seven-story apartment building home.
Adam Kinsey himself is a 14-year resident of the Southside, long enough to say he's been there since before it was cool.
"It's been unbelievable to see the growth happen over that time," he said. "I feel like a majority of the growth has really exploded in the last five years."
Kinsey says at this point, it would be easy to make a long weekend in Chattanooga, hitting primarily Southside joints.
"Everything that's happened on the Southside is local and authentic," he said, which means it's a lure to tourists who want to get a real taste of the town because "they want to see the local places, and not the chain restaurants that they can go and visit in any town."