Cities like Atlanta and Charleston get all the glory, but Chattanooga in East Tennessee plays host to a bevy of can’t-miss culinary gems no traveler should overlook. The unpretentious Southern city offers plenty to do and see in between bites, like the Tennessee Aquarium and Songbirds Guitar Museum, but a city’s food is why we go, right? Hop aboard the Chattanooga train and visit these six swoon-worthy spots.
What do you do with a building that once housed a Coca-Cola bottling plant? If you’re Erik and Amanda Niel, you convert it into one of the most highly regarded restaurants in town. The Niels opened Easy in 2012; since then, Erik, who helms the kitchen, has been a James Beard Award semifinalist twice. It’s easy to see why with his careful attention to detail and high-level execution in everything from the artful charcuterie boards to the beef short rib with beets, figs, beech mushrooms and black garlic.
Chattanooga has a rap for casual touristy favorites like Maple Street Biscuit Company and Aretha Frankensteins, but chef Rebecca Barron has proven there’s an appetite for fine dining, too. Set within a former turn-of-the-century hotel, St. John’s emanates grandness, with two-story windows and soaring ceilings. Barron sources local produce from Tennessee farms, including Chattanooga’s own Crabtree Farms, a nonprofit farm that supplies produce to the city’s restaurants and provides educational outreach to the community. The menu rotates frequently and focuses on seasonal dishes, but Kenny’s Roasted Pork Belly, served on buttermilk biscuits and named after sous-chef Kenny Burnap, is a year-round menu staple.
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Published by Tasting Table on Sept. 7, 2017: Written by Lia Picard