There’s plenty of good reasons why Chattanooga is dubbed The Scenic City. Tucked away in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains along the Tennessee River, Tennessee’s fourth largest city is rich with natural marvels. Whether you’re leisurely taking in breathless views from Rock City and Ruby Falls, or cycling down Chattanooga’s Riverwalk and Stringer’s Ridge, there’s endless ways to enjoy the great outdoors here.
Though spending time in nature is one way to explore the area's offerings, it's not the only way. Because in the past few years, the charming Southern city has experienced a renaissance, with a cool crop of restaurants, bars, and a sparkling, new hotel leading the wave. Here, a weekend guide on where to stay and where to eat when visiting The Scenic City.
Where to Stay
When The Edwin Hotel, a member of the The Autograph Collection, opened its doors last September, Chattanooga finally received the chic, design-minded boutique hotel it deserved. Overlooking the iconic, turquoise Walnut Pedestrian Bridge and Tennessee River, the 90-room downtown property seamlessly honors its unique location, while embracing the evolving needs of today’s travelers.
Upon entering, the first thing you’ll notice is the original, contemporary design. The lobby, for example, drips in an eye-catching mix of sapphire blue, crescent-shaped chairs, and an abstract beaded chandelier. And as The Edwin is dedicated to supporting local artists, you’ll also see original artwork – the hotel’s private collection is comprised of over 75 pieces – everywhere, from the hallways to the signature restaurant.
The original aesthetic extends to the spacious accommodations – which are decked out with everything you need (including plush Frette linens, Echo Amazon Dots, and Crosley turntables) – to help you feel like you're staying in a stylish friend’s home (and not another cookie-cutter hotel). Even turndown service is a notch above the rest, with flameless tea lights, lavender sachet, artisanal chocolates, and a crisp robe gracing your bed every night. For the best views (along with a private patio), book one of the four Riverfront Suites.
Since wellness is on everyone’s minds nowadays, The Edwin, despite its boutique size, thoughtfully offers a topnotch fitness center and spa. Located on the sun-drenched roof, the pristine gym is stocked with state-of-the-art equipment and other smart touches (think chilled water, outdoor plunge pool, and adjustable screens to block the sun) to keep you motivated to break a sweat. And on the ground floor is the hotel’s spa, Ama (meaning “water” in Cherokee). The facilities may lack locker rooms and showers, but the expert care delivered more than makes up for any inconvenience. Among the most requested treatments are the Ama Signature Massage and the Priva Brightening Facial.
But arguably, the biggest selling points of The Edwin are Whitebird, its signature restaurant, and rooftop bar, Whiskey Thief. Open for breakfast through dinner, Whitebird specializes in what chef Kevin Korman’s calls “progressive Appalachian,” and honors “local ingredients (as evidenced by the blue corn breakfast madeleines), the indigenous heritage of the Cherokee, and time-tested preservation methods (like smoking and pickling)." If you happen to be in town during a Chef’s Table Experience, snag a reservation. It’s a terrific opportunity to watch and engage with Korman, as he prepares ten, off-menu courses table side.
Meanwhile, up on the roof at Whiskey Thief is where you’ll want to kick off or close your night. The views of the river are no slouch, but it’s the extensive whiskey collection and talented bartenders that cinch the experience. Whether you’re sipping a whiskey neat or cocktail – the best-selling Old Fashioned features locally-made Chattanooga Whiskey Reserve – be sure to order Korman’s Pizza Rolls, the ultimate bar snack.
Where to Eat and Drink
Main Street Meats
Equal parts butcher shop and casual eatery, the specialty here – the owners are Erik and Amanda Niel, the duo behind another local hot spot, Easy Bistro – is, as the name implies, all things meaty. The lip-smacking charcuterie makes for a terrific starter, but it’s the simple, yet sublime sandwiches that really are a knockout. The MSM Pastrami Reuben, for example, combines salty meat, sour cabbage and pickles, and subtly sweet Russian dressing for a deeply satisfying and addictive effect.
Two Ten Jack
Tucked away in an underground space in Warehouse Row, this is a fun, contemporary take on a Japanese izakaya. The menu categories are traditional (think ramen, yakitori, and maki), but the food surprises with creative, unexpected touches. The Always Sunny roll is especially indulgent, thanks to cream cheese, bread and butter pickles, and crunchy salmon skin, while the vegetarian Yasai Shoyu ramen takes a sweet and smoky turn with burnt corn and black garlic oil. Wash it all down with a glass of cool, crisp sake.
Open since 2005, this bustling restaurant also helmed by the Neils dazzles with soaring ceilings and a chic black-and-white palette. Not surprisingly, the cuisine is just as elevated, yet thoroughly approachable, and is terrific for all types of occasions – whether it be a lively weekend brunch or a quiet solo meal at the bar. The signature dishes, like the fork-tender brisket atop creamy potatoes, are surefire crowdpleasers, as is the sticky-sweet bourbon bread pudding.
Newly opened, this buzzy bar by London-raised James Heeley is Chattanooga’s first speakeasy. (You’re allowed entry by dialing in America’s birth year into a phone booth on Cherry Street.) Once inside, you can’t help but notice the dramatic wooden bar, lined with stools and shelving – which were built by Heeley and his grandfather, who flew in from the UK to help – anchored by a cheeky portrait of the Queen blowing a bubble. The goal of all this hard work is simple: “We want to make the cocktail accessible again,” says Heeley.
St. John’s Restaurant
To celebrate a special occasion, locals depend on this elegant mainstay housed in a lovingly restored historic flatiron building. While chef Rebecca Barron’s a technician in the kitchen – she’s renown for elevating local everyday ingredients to great new heights – she’s not afraid to have some fun, too. (Her plating is positively pretty, and begs to be photographed.) The service is polished, yet warm, and oenophiles will flip for the wine cellar, which features over 400 bottles.
Published online on January 30, 2019: Written by Katie Chang