Chattanooga restaurants have done everything they can to adjust to change during the COVID-19 pandemic. And this includes morphing into markets.
Jesse Watlington, cheesemonger and owner of Bleu Fox Cheese Shop at 324 E. Main St., says his shop has always been classified as a grocery store, but never before did he sell milk and eggs. When the pandemic took away much of his business, as it did most all foodservice establishments, he added those to his menu, along with pizza kits, pasta and salad options.
"Everything you needed to make dinner for your family at home," he says.
Like many food establishments, Bleu Fox made it through the pandemic's bleakest days of spring and summer. Now that eateries have reopened, grocery sales have been cut back to a degree — Watlington no longer sells milk — but not halted. In fact, he has plans to expand his grocery inventory. "It's a tricky time to start something new, but this is something we've always wanted to offer," he says.
The pandemic offered a good testing ground. The Main Street neighborhood responded positively. "It's a community that has always banded together to help sustain businesses in the area," Watlington says. Orders may be placed online at bleufoxcheeseshop.com and picked up curbside or delivered by Grubhub.
When dining-in came to a halt at Frothy Monkey at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, 1400 Market St., the restaurant was forced to look at other options. Offering staples for sale helped keep the doors open.
"It gave us a way to connect with guests, and gave them a way to experience Frothy Monkey at home," says general manager Amy Warren.
In addition to offering takeout and curbside pickup of its menu items, patrons could also take home milk, eggs, pimento cheese, chicken salad, fresh produce and butcher bags filled with fresh meats.
Though the list of market items has been reduced, the market at Frothy Monkey continues to be a popular option in an area with a dearth of traditional grocery store choices. Warren says customers can order online at frothymonkey.com to pick up in-house or curbside, or use Postmates or Uber Eats.
While there are many eateries in town where you can get prepared family-size meals to go, here are some more restaurants that have shape-shifted into markets around town, selling staples for a meal that you can make for yourself at home.
Main Street Meats
It was easy to transform the Southside's favorite butcher shop into a market since Main Street Meats was already selling fresh meats. But add to that bacon, eggs, breads, jams, jellies, cheeses and butter, and you have a one-stop shop where you can get the fixings for a great breakfast, lunch or dinner. And, says market manager Jean Gresham, it's an offering that will continue — at least for the foreseeable future, if not permanently.
* Order online at mainstreetmeatschatt.com or call 423-602-9568.
* Pick up at 217 E. Main St., or have Grubhub deliver.
One of America's favorite soup-salad-sandwich shops, Panera now sells fresh blueberries, tomatoes, avocados, milk, Greek yogurt, bagels and other items. Orders can be delivered in under one hour in many cases.
* Order online at panerabread.com.
* Pick up at 417 Market St., 620 Northgate Mall Drive or 1810 Gunbarrel Road. Panera Bread has its own delivery service that charges a minimum delivery rate of $3, or get Grubhub to deliver.
Niedlov's Cafe and Bakery
It began as a small bakery on Chattanooga's Southside, then expanded its menu to serve mouthwatering sandwiches on its homemade bread, soups and other rustic fare. Now, Niedlov's is answering the need of its community, once again expanding its offerings to include chicken salad, pimento cheese, hummus, eggs, milk, jams, bagels with house-made cream cheese, butter, homemade granola and, oh yes, breads of all sorts. "When restaurants closed, this helped us tremendously," says cafe director Ian Kizer. But as the need continues, Neidlov's "grocery" remains open.
* Order online at niedlovs.com.
* Pick up at 215 E. Main St. (curbside pickup only).
Firebirds Wood Fired Grill
It's now possible to get a steakhouse steak and cook it on your grill at home as Firebirds has transformed, in part, into a butcher shop offering fresh cuts of its 21-day-aged steaks. Rib-eyes (14-ounces for $14.95 each); 7-ounce filets ($12.95 each); 7- and 12-ounce center-cut sirloins ($5.95-$8.95); and half-pound burgers can be ordered. The burgers ($5.25 each) include Firebirds' special steak seasoning spice blend and brioche buns.
* Order online at firebirdsrestaurants.olo.express.
* Pick up curbside at 2107 Gunbarrel Road.
Email Anne Braly at firstname.lastname@example.org.