Let's play a game. Pretend you are on death row ...
No. Rewind. Sorry. Too harsh.
Let's say that for some strange reason — say, a comet is about to hit East Tennessee — you determine you have only one remaining meal, and you can only order a dinner composed of native Chattanooga foods.
What would your "last meal" be?
Go ahead: Pretend a fleet of food delivery cars is lined up to do your bidding. But, remember, you can only order indigenous Chattanooga foods and restaurant dishes. No chain stuff allowed.
I tried playing this game the other day, and I should tell you my "last meal" menu was constructed without any thought to cost, nutritional value or culinary sophistication. Importantly, it was also built with no consideration of "what will the kids eat?"
I figure if I'm going to get smashed by a comet I might as well order a plate of Southern-fried goodness. If anybody wants to food-shame me for my menu, please go for it, knowing full well it will fall on "dead" ears.
Loosen your belt, y'all:
* Drink: I'll have a Coke on ice from Nikki's Drive Inn. It's probably just the midcentury ambiance, but there's something about a Coke from Nikki's on Cherokee Boulevard that seems to have that back-of-the-throat kick that reminds me of my childhood.
* Appetizer: Sliced Sand Mountain tomatoes sprinkled with seasoned salt, and chicken salad spread on saltines from Chicken Salad Chick downtown. In season, Sand Mountain tomatoes are the perfect delivery system for salt, and the chicken salad on crackers clears the palate from the fried-food onslaught to come.
* Soup: Krystal chili. Please, hold your jeers. I'm aware that chili is not a traditional soup, but it is close enough for me, and anybody who says Krystal food is not indigenous to Chattanooga is spiteful, willfully misinformed or both.
* Bread: I will have two baskets of buttery rolls from Provino's Italian Restaurant in South Terrace Plaza. The second basket is just there for comfort, or to pelt any food snobs who try to critique my last meal.
* Entree: A double order of fried catfish from Southern Star on Broad Street. Sometimes on Fridays I treat myself to catfish from the Star downtown, and I've never been disappointed. Too, there's something about eating fried fish in the middle of the day that's mildly naughty.
* Side dish No. 1: An order of onion rings from Ankar's Hoagies on Brainerd Road. These golden, piled-high onion rings make my heart happy. Plus, on last-meal day, I will have no regrets about eating every last ring.
* Side dish No. 2: A slice of pepperoni pizza from Lupi's Pizza Pies on Broad Street. This is not a traditional side dish, I know, but I'll need one last portion of Chattanooga's best slice.
* Dessert: A strawberry shortcake made with Dayton, Tennessee, strawberries. This is farm-to-fork heaven.
* After-dinner mint: A double-decker chocolate MoonPie.
(It would please me if some of you will play this game, too, and send me your personal "Chattanooga last meal" menu to email@example.com.)