A beautiful Tennessee destination with a mix of Southern charm and big-city amenities, Chattanooga offers an enticing dining scene downtown.
Chattanooga’s riverside setting provides picturesque natural scenery, outdoor adventures, a multitude of museums and plenty of family-friendly fun. Plus, there’s always a festival or event taking place, from the nine-day music fest known as Riverbend Festival to the unique Chattanooga Dulcimer Festival. To fuel all that fun, though, you’ll need some dining options that offer the best of local flavors, produce and ingredients. Here are just seven of the best to try during your downtown stay.
Back Inn Café
Within the broader downtown district of Chattanooga is the Bluff View Art District, a lovely area that provides exactly what it sounds like—gorgeous views above the river and plenty of art galleries and boutiques to explore. Stop in for dinner at the Back Inn Café, which is situated inside a renovated Colonial Revival mansion. The seasonal, rotating menu features international cuisine. The seating options range from a tranquil library to several sunrooms and a river-view terrace. Expect entrees with a mix of global and Southern flair, such as sweet heat barbecue chicken (with braised greens, sweet potato hash, blueberry barbecue sauce and chili-infused honey) and Carolina rainbow trout (with cherry tomato chutney, spaghetti squash and a fennel cream sauce).
411 East 2nd St.
Part-Southern, part-classic steakhouse, Hennen’s offers top-notch steaks and seafood, plus more than 100 wines. Beyond the steaks and seafood, you’ll find pork chops, duck breast, chicken picatta, cheese tortellini and more. Menu favorites include the South by Southwest Shrimp, Delmonico ribeye, shrimp and grits, and stone-seared salmon.
193 Chestnut St.
Easy Bistro & Bar
An upscale establishment serving brunch, dinner and a delightful bar menu, Easy Bistro & Bar boasts an award-winning chef and has been called “swoon-worthy.” Getting its start in 2005, you can also bet its long-standing success is here to stay. Expect a tempting array of brunch options, from your typical eggs Benedict and steak and eggs to more Southern-inspired plates, like shrimp and grits, a fried chicken sandwich and bourbon bread pudding. Dinner is more upscale, with options like lamb sirloin or their version of steak frites, made with wagyu sirloin and herb butter. Whatever you order washes down easy with their signature cocktails or a glass of locally-sourced kombucha.
203 Broad St.
Located in the former St. John’s Hotel building, a flatiron structure with a long past and even a stint as a brothel, John’s Restaurant shares the beautifully restored space with St. John’s Meeting Place and several other businesses, as well as luxury apartments. The menu at St. John’s is updated regularly and consists of a limited selection of high-end options reflecting the season. Think warm roasted beets with blackberry sheep’s milk cheese, asparagus and rhubarb; pork belly croque madame with a buttermilk biscuit, quail egg and raspberry-cherry jam; pork chops with whipped English pea and potato puree and a local oyster mushroom and spring vegetable salad; and semolina spaghetti with smoked trout, sautéed spinach and artichoke hearts.
1278 Market St.
Opened in 2006, Food Works is a local favorite, situated within a historic knitting mill. The menu is “progressive Southern” with international influences, while the cocktail menu features specialty martinis and imported beers. The all-day menu provides casual options like salads and sandwiches, as well as specialty entrees, such as the smoked beef brisket, shrimp n’ grits and house lasagna. Specialty martinis include the lemon ginger, chocolate, blackberry and pear tree. Or try fun cocktail concoctions like The Embezzler (vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry juice and Champagne) and the Chattahattan (a twist on the classic Manhattan with local whiskey, Cointreau, sweet vermouth and orange bitters).
205-C Manufacturers Rd.
Stir prides itself on its local menu, oyster bar, craft cocktails and artisanal ice–hand-cut for each craft cocktail. Ingredients are sourced from farms that are all within 100 miles of the city and delivered straight to the restaurant, located within the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo, the updated terminal station. At dinner, beyond the oyster and raw bar, you’ll find an array of appetizers (from salmon cakes to white truffle fries) and salads (including several chop and wedge salads). The entrees include filet and house crab ravioli, scallop and shrimp white cheddar mac n’ cheese and “simply the best” fried shrimp. It’s impossible to leave without a drink, though, particularly when the ice comes with such high promises. The mixology staff starts with a 300-pound, purified block of ice, hand-cut into either two-inch rocks, long rocks, one-inch rocks, spheres, pebbles, shavings or crushed ice. Opt for something traditional, like an Old Fashioned, or something a little more out of the box, like the Slackjawed Jezebel (bourbon, lemon curd, ginger syrup, lemon juice and sugar cane syrup) or the CoCo Choo Choo (rum, gin, grapefruit, orange juice, coconut cream and cumin).
1444 Market St.
Public House Chattanooga
If you’re familiar with Southern dining, you’re familiar with the “meat and three” — a main entree protein accompanied by three side dishes (often some kind of vegetable along with some starches, such as mashed potatoes or mac n’ cheese). Public House is where meat and three meets fine dining, and the result is spectacular. Lunchtime main plates include fried chicken, red wine-braised pot roast and duck confit. Those three sides include a jalapeño-cheddar muffin plus your choice between green beans, collard greens, asparagus and more. Dinner is similar, with more upscale options influenced by Southern taste and style.
1110 Market St.