Hamilton Place has the lion's share of restaurants in Chattanooga with so many tastes from which to choose. So how do you pick the one that will satisfy everyone? You look for a place that concentrates on a variety of choices. Not only that, but good service and an atmosphere that gives you options.
Enter Miller's Ale House, a restaurant that's fun and laid-back, that neighborhood-bar type of place that, at first glance, appears to be a sports bar. But it's much more.
When a restaurant has "ale" in its name, it should have a few beers on the menu. In the case of Miller's Ale House, there are 45 on tap, more than enough to get your fill of suds.
And when it comes to the food, well, let's just say there are so many choices. Do you want to keep it simple and go with a burger? Not as easy a decision as you may think. Want it with barbecue and bacon? How about bacon and blue cheese or a burger with shaved prime rib, roasted mushrooms, sauteed onions, gravy, garlic crema and crispy onions? There are steaks, seafood, steak-and-seafood combos, pasta dishes, meatloaf, fish and chips, salmon any way you want it — blackened, grilled or broiled — and more options. See where I'm going with this?
Miller's Ale House also has daily specials. For an economical lunch, Dad's Homemade Meatloaf is only $7, as are the fish and chips or a soup-and-salad duo. For $1 more, you can get a blackened salmon Caesar salad or andouille sausage mac and cheese. Or really splurge on the Mega Cheese and Bacon Burger or a chicken club-and-salad duo for $10.
Dinner specials are served during the week: barbecue baby back ribs ($15) on Monday, sirloin steak ($11) or coconut shrimp ($12) on Tuesday, Creole jambalaya ($12) on Wednesday and prime rib ($16) on Thursday.
One thing about Miller's Ale House: It's not a restaurant for anyone concerned with calories, though the calorie count is listed beside each item on the menu.
We decided on the Zingers Mountain Melt and pork osso buco.
When your server says, "Everyone needs to have a Mountain Melt at least once in their life," one pays heed. If you love french fries covered in melted cheese and topped with Miller's signature hand-breaded chicken tenders, a.k.a. Zingers, tossed in your choice of 17 sauces, green onions and crispy bacon, you'll place your order and cross this one off your life's bucket list.
The melt is huge — more than enough to share with a table of four. I was told some people eat the entire thing themselves. Hard to imagine. Don't get me wrong — it's an amazing collection of flavors and textures; it's just that it's so big. Warning: Don't look at the calorie count. (Spoiler alert: It's more than your recommended daily calorie allotment.) But if you share it with four other people, it's not so bad. Just saying.
I've never had pork osso buco, and this was a treat. It's a lovely presentation, unexpected for a place that touts itself as a sports bar more than anything else. The pork literally gave way with the slightest touch of my fork, the true definition of meat that is fork-tender. Again, the serving was large and can easily serve two average appetites, particularly if you've consumed a beer or two and ordered that Zingers Mountain Melt.
The servers — and there were enough of them to keep the restaurant hopping on a late Thursday afternoon — are well-versed on the menu and what beers are available each day. Food was delivered hot in a matter of minutes. No long waits and no mistakes, so no complaints.
If you go
— Where: Miller's Ale House, 2119 Gunbarrel Road
— Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday-Saturday
— Alcohol: Full bar
— Entree price range: $11-$23
— Phone: 423-414-3863
— Online: millersalehouse.com
There are two bars in this location of Miller's Ale House, the main one raised above dining level to give it the appearance of separation. There are seats at the bar as well as booth seating along its walls. The second bar is smaller and tucked into a corner in another dining area with garage-style doors that open to outside dining when the weather is nice.
The dining areas also have booths and tables — tall tables and regular ones where your feet actually hit the floor.
Everywhere you look, you'll find lots of natural wood. Even the floors, though, vinyl, look like hardwood. The decor is accented with lots of black trim for a modern, sleek look that sets the mood for a pleasant meal.
Music plays loud enough in the background to hear it, but somehow it's not intrusive — just loud enough to cover conversation at the next table but not so loud that you can't hear what your dining partner is saying. You won't have to "What???" throughout your meal. It's at a level that makes dining fun.
And if you're here for a sports-bar atmosphere, you've got it. There are 74 televisions, with sports on every one.
Miller's Ale House started three decades back in Florida. At the time, there was just one. Now, as the chain experiences a growth spurt, there are 95 locations spread across 10 states. The restaurant in Chattanooga opened three years ago, but it wasn't until recently that I paid a visit for the first time. And it won't be the last.
It's the kind of place that fits so many occasions, from date night to football weekends, and I can't imagine a better place to watch the Super Bowl. With all those TVs and good food, it's a win-win.