Words by Julia Eskins
Photos by Aleyah Solomon
For a small city that borders Georgia, Chattanooga has a booming food scene. And though it doesn’t often get the same recognition as Nashville, Tennessee’s fourth-largest city is cooking up some dynamic flavours of its own. From farm-to-table cafes to incredible burger joints, it’s the perfect destination to indulge from breakfast to dessert. Locals say that you can eat at a different restaurant for every meal for a week and still only visit a fraction of the city’s establishments. Having barely scratched the surface of all that Chattanooga’s culinary scene has to offer, here are some of the places that we checked off our foodie bucket list.
The retro industrial vibe reigns supreme at Slick’s, where co-owners Eric Taslimi and Robb Peterson pride themselves on serving up house made burgers with a side of nostalgia. Housed in a 1954 Spartan Imperial Mansion trailer decorated with old license plates and vintage advertisements, the restaurant is one-of-a-kind. Inside, you can expect friendly service, a rotating list of 16 beers on tap and meat (beef, lamb, turkey) that’s freshly ground and grilled daily. Combining a cool ambiance with killer food (there’s also a top notch veggie patty), Slick’s is turning their mantra of “Love, peace and burger grease” into a Chattanooga mainstay.
Most people associate hot dogs with American BBQs of summers past. But for Good Dog’s owner, childhood memories of vacationing throughout America fuelled a business venture. The restaurant takes a decidedly natural approach by grilling all-beef, natural-casing Sabrett’s hot dogs, local Heritage Health Food veggie dogs, hand-cased bratwurst, Italian sausage, breakfast sausage and a variety of chicken sausages. Add freshly baked cupcakes, hand cut frites and cold beer and you’ve got the makings for the ultimate Americana experience.
Located in the historic Southside of Chattanooga, Mean Mug Coffeehouse is as local as it gets. Roasted seasonal coffee is provided by micro-roaster Velo Coffee Roasters, which specializes in small batch and specialty roasts. Caffeine lovers will also appreciate specialty drinks by Boneshaker Espresso, Kyoto Cold Brew, and French press and pour over brewing options. Established in 2011 by Matt Lewis and Monica Smith, Mean Mug also takes the cake for its artisan pastries made in house. With its cozy atmosphere, this is one of Chattanooga’s best cafes for working, reading or simply enjoying the ambiance.
In the Chattanooga heat, sometimes the best way to kick-start a summer day is with a refreshing cold-pressed juice or smoothie. Pura Vida just so happens to be one of the city’s best organic cafes specializing in healthy breakfast and snack options. Carolina Hammontree opened the North Chattanooga outpost after developing a love of healthy eating in her native Venezuela. All of the food here is made from scratch, including the almond and coconut milk, breads and tortillas. Recipes are created by Maite Bou Acuita, a certified holistic nutrition health coach, and their roster of juices is often updated to include new flavours and seasonal local produce.
The philosophy at The Local is that food is equal parts art and medicine; healing and pleasure. Inside, you’ll discover a menu full of nourishing cold-pressed juices made from locally sourced ingredients, with each one boasting its own medley of health benefits ranging from hydration and weight control to inflammation reduction and bone health. If you’re in the mood for something to eat, try one of their acai bowls, which are somewhat of a local treasure in ‘Nooga. While the cool ambiance, friendly service and long list of options will tempt you to come back to try something new, The Local also offers multi-day juice cleanses delivered right to your door.
Welcome to the land of milk and honey, where pure gelato, craft coffee and fresh fruit popsicles tantalize the taste buds. Opened by Chattanooga restaurateurs Mike and Taylor Monen (the duo behind Taco Mamacita, Burger Lounge and Community Pie), Milk & Honey is quickly becoming known for its bevy of treats made from local ingredients. Their gelato menu is ever-changing and with flavours like lavender and honey, chai and lime basil, it’s easy to go wild. Whether you’re in the mood for a fruity paleta or the signature Milk & Honey birthday cake (milk and honey soaked vanilla cake with homemade raspberry preserves and white chocolate buttercream), this sweet spot in the city is worth a visit.