Chattanooga’s food and drink scene continues to garner national attention
Endlessly impressive with luxurious settings, outstanding ambiance, decadent cuisine, and experiential opportunities, Chattanooga’s fine dining scene is second to none. James Beard Award-winning chefs, renowned sommeliers, artful plating displays, inspiring ambiances, seasonally fresh ingredients, and masterful executions are all components of Chattanooga’s fine dining scene. These area restaurants serve beautifully fashioned, delicious cocktails, show-stopping dishes, and innovative flavor combinations to their patrons. World-class wines are sourced by certified experts to curate impressive varietal selections. Whether searching for a romantic dinner option, a fresh and exciting family experience, or a place to entertain and impress colleagues, Chattanooga has the perfect table available.
Fun family dining and gathering places for friends abound in Chattanooga. From burger joints to pizza shops to New York-style delis or south of the border locales, the Scenic City offers up a variety of choices for a laid back, comfort food dining experience. Families and friends can enjoy many of Chattanooga’s favorite foods like award-winning wings, wood-fired pizza, Southern-fried chicken, mouthwatering burgers, famous barbecue, made-from-scratch tacos, gourmet ice creams, and more.
Many local restaurants draw crowds with trivia and karaoke nights, as well as live music. Several establishments incorporate games, from arcade to lawn style, to enhance interactions. Sports bars provide a lively, thrilling atmosphere to catch a game while feasting on appetizers and drinks.
Enjoy a knowledgeable staff, stunningly crisp and elegant ambiance, and exquisite cuisine at one of Chattanooga’s newest fine dining establishments. Fresh flowers on the table tops, locally sourced ingredients, and artful plating make Whitebird a refreshing restaurant to visit. A certified master chef crafts innovative and satisfying dishes under his designed theme of elevated Appalachian cuisine, full of indigenous flavors and freshness.
(above) photo by Rich Smith
Cultural diversity is a staple in the Scenic City, where authentic international foods and traditions are alive and well. The variety of ethnic foods enchant even the most sophisticated and traveled palate. Among the most popular cuisines are freshly prepared and delightfully plated Asian, South American, Mediterranean, and European foods. Whether your preference is Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Greek, Italian, or Mexican, you are sure to find and enjoy an exceptionally fulfilling and culturally inspiring dining experience. You can also stock up on specialty breads, spreads, meats, and spices at one of Chattanooga’s international markets, and enjoy a relaxing, delicious meal at home.
The state of Tennessee prides itself on making the finest whiskey around, and Chattanooga is no exception. The Scenic City honors the rich history of whiskey production with award-winning local distilleries and by hosting state-wide whiskey festivals.
In the late 1800s, Chattanooga was home to more than 30 distilleries–until Prohibition caused the distilleries and distributers to close up shop. Over 100 years later, Chattanooga is once again home to its own distillery, but it wasn’t without a fight. In 2009, a state bill allowed distilleries to open in selected counties in Tennessee, but Hamilton County was not included. In 2011, the founders of Chattanooga Whiskey Company started a campaign, “Vote Whiskey,” to once again allow distilling in Hamilton County. In 2013, the bill passed, and Chattanooga Whiskey Co. opened their micro-distillery and tasting room on the Southside, called the Chattanooga Whiskey Experimental Distillery, offering visitors tours and tastings of its locally produced potions. With the latest laws in place now, new local distilleries are in the works in and around downtown and will be making their debut in the coming years. Among others, Renovare, a distiller of gin, vodka, and whiskey, is set to open soon, while the Chattanooga Choo Choo has announced that a new distillery, Gate Eleven, will open on its campus.
Flavorfully infused vodkas, along with resurrected bourbon recipes, are also making a splash. Lass & Lions, a newer spirits company which has opened shop in Chattanooga, offers an assortment of handcrafted vodkas, infused with exotic ingredients such as Madagascar vanilla beans, chamomile, and lemongrass. Recently, another group of locals revived an old, storied Chattanooga brand and recipe from the 19th century – J.W. Kelly & Co. – and are bottling and selling bourbon whiskey.
When you’re searching for upscale American food with a touch of French influence, ambiance, and authenticity, this gem in the West Village is sure to impress. Here guests can enjoy al fresco dining, tableside cocktails, and innovative entrées at this newer downtown establishment. Come for the steaks and crepes, stay for the social setting.
Italian-inspired food shines here in its simplicity and freshness. Immersed in the street scene with wrap-around windows, diners can enjoy the views of passersby and the vivacious backdrop of one of Chattanooga’s newest hotspots. Choose from options including homemade pasta, Neapolitan-style pizza, innovative cocktails, or the perfect pairing from their extensive wine list.
Fine Mexican dining with a specialty liquor focus can be found at this West Village hotspot. The fresh ingredients and exciting menu items make Citron et Sel a fantastic place to spend time with friends or family. Try any number of selections from their curated list of tequilas, their delectable tacos and burritos, or their tableside guacamole.
Craft breweries are continuing to take flight with new brewhouses and taprooms opening last year, and more on the horizon – turning Chattanooga into a craft beer destination. Currently, the brewery landscape consists of breweries that have won awards at the Great American Beer Festival and a resurrected brewing company that began in the 1890s, among others. Attention to detail and simple ingredients contribute to the success of these breweries, and as demand grows, new breweries have announced plans to open in the near future.
Meanwhile, cicerones and brew masters have been producing award-winning brews that are found on tap all over the city; craft beer connoisseurs can choose from the hoppiest IPAs to the maltiest ales and everything in between for a taste of local brewing creations. Beyond beer, some breweries are producing kombuchas and other specialty drinks, while some breweries are devoted to kombucha solely.
For those with a curiosity about craft beer no matter where it hales from, several tasting rooms and tap houses have beer menus over 100 options long. Residents can take advantage of local brewer and beer festivals, which showcase local and regional craft beer. Pub crawls are also recommended to discover the city’s best brews; plan a crawl with friends or join in on one of several organized events.
Find your way across the Walnut Street Bridge to the downtown side. Nestled on the cobblestone corner is a Chattanooga hotspot. Featuring custom-blended Mayfield ice cream or frozen yogurt, with low-fat, sugar-free, and dairy-free options, Seattle-roasted gourmet coffee drinks, and a variety of other treats and snacks, this ice cream shop is a local favorite. The smell of freshly baked waffle cones and the lure of over 40 fresh ingredients to blend into your frozen treat will keep you coming back.
Established in 2002, Mojo Burrito is synonymous with fresh Tex-Mex in Chattanooga, and the fast, friendly service, budget-friendly prices, and multiple locations make dining at Mojo easy. This local joint serves up burritos, tacos, quesadillas, nachos, and more – partnering with other local businesses and supporting the arts scene with an eclectic, colorful environment full of local art. Vegetarian and vegan options are also available.
(above) photo by Rich Smith
Chattanooga’s beverage landscape wouldn’t be complete without world-class wines. While it may be surprising to some, Southeast Tennessee has the ideal climate and soil for growing a variety of grapes. This translates into a flourishing wine industry for the Chattanooga area, where local wineries produce a number of award-winning wines. In addition to providing gorgeous views and a relaxing escape, the wineries’ vineyards yield Concord, catawba, and chambourcin grapes, to name a few. The varietals produced here are used to create an array of sweet to dry wines. Visitors often enjoy these wines in a tasting room experience, where they can learn their own palate preferences and purchase local offerings. Other area wine experts can be found in Chattanooga’s wine and spirits shops, and several restaurants. Wine Over Water is an annual festival in downtown Chattanooga that celebrates wine from around the world.
From European style, to fun and funky, to modern and minimalistic, area coffee shops offer something for every taste. Long revered for its world-class coffee scene, Chattanooga is home to award-winning roasters, talented baristas, and a passion for premium fair-trade coffee creations. Barista training courses and innovative camp kits (to enjoy your coffee outdoors, of course!) are among the practices keeping the coffee scene top-notch.
In addition to local shops serving up artisan cups and shots, several award-winning area roasters have a hand in the entire process, from green coffee bean to perfectly poured cup. Complex blends are inspired by countries around the world, from Colombia to Congo, and can be purchased at brick and mortar locations around the city, as well as online. New flavors and roasts unique to Chattanooga are cultivated each year.
Newly opened upscale dining in the historic heart of Chattanooga’s downtown, this swanky chophouse will serve up a sizzling steak to make your mouth water. Named after one of The Read House’s most loyal employees, Mr. Peter “Rabbit” Bridgeman, this fine dining establishment boasts old-world charm and authenticity in a luxurious and modern atmosphere. From sexy sears to the sultry color palette of the dining room, this is a picture-perfect place to enjoy a romantic evening.
(above) photo by Mark Song
Lupi’s has been spinning specialty pizzas for over two decades while emphasizing fresh, local ingredients. Not only is the ambiance colorful and invigorating, but everything from their lauded bruschetta to their lengthy list of beers is a tasty treat. A fun, family-friendly setting, Lupi’s is a great place to snag a slice of farm-to-paddle pizza.
(above) photo by Rich Smith
Locally sourced ingredients are an essential element in Chattanooga’s dining landscape, as many restaurants select the freshest foods from farms in the Tennessee Valley area. By both supporting the local economy and offering the highest quality of foods, these restaurants are gaining the attention, and the business, of residents passionate about their food. Local produce, including kale, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and more, is so bountiful that vegetarian and vegan eateries are able to maintain full-service menus with a creative flair. On the other hand, cattle, pigs, chicken, and lamb are raised in unstressed, free-range environments near Chattanooga and are supplied to local butchers and restaurants. Seasonal produce can also be found at farmers markets throughout the area. The Chattanooga Market is the region’s largest outdoor food and crafts market. Voted one of the top public markets in America, it works with more than 50 farms to supply visitors with a variety of local produce, meats, and cheeses.
Come for the incomparable views, stay for the deliciously unique take on Southern cuisine. At Café 7, you and your company are sure to be stunned by the sweeping views of seven different states from terraces at Rock City’s iconic Lover’s Leap overlook. Nothing says, “Welcome to Chattanooga,” quite like sweet tea and scenic vistas.
Savor the flavors of the Mediterranean at Acropolis Grill. Featuring delicious entrées, including steak, kabobs, and pastas, the family-owned establishment makes an impression with original recipes and attentive service. Share a meal with friends in the dining area, or relax at the bar or covered patio–just don’t forget to end the meal with baklava cheesecake!
Another notable aspect of Chattanooga’s food and drink scene is the presence of supper clubs. Friends come together to enjoy carefully crafted dishes, drinks, and good company; these meals are often prepared to a specific theme, from international fare to champagne brunches. Family-held, generational recipes are incorporated into the menu, and these delicious foods, combined with a convivial setting, provide for a unique, culturally diverse dining experience. Also a part of the supper club movement are dining events, where guests can pay to join in on the fun. The Scenic City Supper Club is a seasonal dining event that brings top chefs together to serve a multicourse seated dinner, which includes delectable, locally grown foods, craft cocktails, and more. The event showcases the diverse and rich talents of Chattanooga’s culinary scene while offering diners an exceptional evening.
Both casual and fine dining experiences can be found throughout the Chattanooga area within the outstanding selection of private clubs. Often with spectacular views, such as those from mountain top bluffs, top floor expanses, or pristine golf courses, the ambiance, along with the meal and company, delights all five senses. Dining clubs, including The Walden Club and Mountain City Club, are local favorites. Golf and country clubs can be found throughout the area as well; among several are the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club, The Lookout Mountain Club, Cleveland Country Club, and Signal Mountain Golf and Country Club.
Sharing is encouraged at Community Pie, so bring your family or friends to sample Community Pie’s offerings, including salads, pastas, pizzas, and made-from-scratch gelato. Delivering on flavor and authenticity, pizzas are served Neapolitan, New York, or Detroit style with toppings ranging from fig preserves and Calabrian chilies to chipotle honey and slow-cooked pork shoulder. Gluten-free pizza is also available.
Whether in the mood for a hearty lunch or a late-night snack, Urban Stack has you covered. Committed to sustainable practices, this downtown restaurant works with local farmers and vendors to provide uniquely built burgers — including favorites like the Hamburguesa Mamacita and The Big Cheese. Complement your meal with one of Urban Stack’s specialty cocktails or handspun milkshakes, and you’re in for a real treat.
(above) photo by Lanewood Studio
Artisanal chocolates, desserts, confections, and custom gifts available in all sizes and quantities can be found at this local delicacy dealer in Chattanooga’s vibrant Southside. Situated in an exciting location close to music venues, whiskey tasting rooms, and nightlife, the eatery offers in-house gourmet pastries, specialty drinks, and a jaw-dropping display case full of European-inspired, world-class dessert options.
With its unique space, Food Works charms locals and out-of-towners alike. Located in the historic Signal Knitting Mill on the NorthShore, Food Works has perfected what they call “progressive Southern cuisine.” Reserve your table for lunch or dinner, or experience the restaurant’s popular brunch.
(above) photo by Rich Smith