Since opening in the fall, Hello Monty has become the darling of Main Street. The restaurant is the brainchild of veteran restaurateur Rob Gentry, who was one of the masterminds behind Big River Grill & Brewing Works, who then went on to open Blue Plate Diner and that funky little Robar with its lineup of retro cocktails, and his brewmaster brother, Clay Gentry, widely regarded as one of the tops in the craft beer industry. Their latest entry brings new flavors to the Southside.
What's in a name, you may ponder. This restaurant, located in one of the historic brick buildings at the corner of Main and Cowart, got its name from a colorful figure in Chattanooga history, B. Rush Montgomery — Monty to his friends. A man with a booming voice and huge promoter of his hometown, Monty once stated that Chattanooga would one day boast a population of 1 million and be the center of the universe.
While Montgomery's prediction has not (yet) come to fruition, his namesake eatery, which seats 175 people inside and out, is the center of attention Wednesday through Sunday for thirsty patrons and hungry diners around the neighborhood and beyond.
There's a distinct Southern twist to a menu that's rather cosmopolitan. By that, I don't mean fancy, but with flavors from around the globe. You can dine on mussels from Bangs Island, Maine; salmon that we know doesn't come from the Tennessee River; and chicken from Springer Mountain in Georgia.
The Gentry brothers and chef Rebecca Barron, whose impressive resume includes a James Beard nomination, have given a distinct Southern wink toward so many of the dishes, all of which have taken a turn in the 900-degree, wood- and charcoal-powered oven.
There's the pork tenderloin that, upon reading the menu description, is a barbecue plate with sauce and coleslaw. There's a vegetarian dish of Carolina rice grits from Anson Farms served with coal-roasted vegetables, a soft-boiled egg and miso butter. There's a grilled Caesar salad and one with charred kale and Romaine lettuce. A nice side to that would be grilled country bread with miso butter and roasted garlic oil.
And beer lovers will appreciate the work that Clay Gentry has put into the craft beers that only recently began pouring from the taps. There are anywhere from seven to nine beers, all brewed on the premises.
If you go
— Where: Hello Monty, 306 W. Main St.
— Hours: 4-9 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 4-10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday
— Entree price range: $12-$47
— Alcohol: Full bar.
— Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
— Reservations: resy.com
We went with blackened salmon, Springer Mountain Farms half chicken, beer-braised greens, roasted vegetables and an apple crisp.
I've mentioned that most all dishes are prepared in an oven that breathes fire and gives each dish a distinct flavor. The salmon appeared burned, so much so that it gave me pause, but that was just the bark that surrounds beautiful, pink flesh. It was perfect, as was the chicken — a large half chicken with crispy skin made so by that oven. It was garnished with a beautiful herb salad of cilantro, mint, basil, parsley and green onion.
Side dishes are served separately and made for sharing in large, oval-shaped cast-iron vessels. The greens, a nice mix of kale and collards, come steaming hot in a bath of pot likker — now that's Southern, for certain. And the roasted vegetable had a wonderful char to them.
And the apple crisp? Oh my! Was my grandma in the kitchen? It was hot, crispy where it should be, hot and bubbly with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream that melted into each delicious spoonful.
The way these dishes are served brings an entirely new dining experience to the Southside. What a treat that was.
Hello Monty is located in one of those marvelous old buildings found in the Main Street area. Exposed brick inside adds to the charm. There are two main dining areas, one with the bar with windows on the back side looking into the brewery area with its pristine stainless-steel tanks.
The catbird seat is in this bar area. There are three booths that line a long wall with windows that look into the kitchen, and the view is outstanding. It's fun to watch Barron and her crew of chefs work as team. It's like a culinary ballet as they move about.
The second dining area has tables and booths, with access to a large outdoor patio, where on nice nights you can enjoy the busyness of Main Street.
The space isn't extremely large, but it's been well thought out to accommodate as many people as possible without overcrowding.
The restaurant was packed on the Wednesday evening of my visit, so it took a few minutes for our server to come by, but once we connected, everything went smoothly. Dishes were whisked out of the kitchen and on our table in under 15 minutes. And though the bartender was busy, it took little time for our wine to arrive tableside. Servers appear to work together to get the job done.
Hello Monty is another piece of Main Street's expanding culinary quilt that covers a delicious diversity of flavors. I'm excited about this one. It's a welcome addition that will have you repeating, "Hello Monty!"
Contact Anne Braly at email@example.com or annebraly.com.