Here in the Scenic City, we’re fortunate to have an ever-expanding culinary scene, but there are some foods that every local should try at least once. These are the dishes that make an impression, that keeps customers coming back again and again. Keep reading for 15 of the best things you’ll eat in Chattanooga – you can thank us later!
1. Local Beef Burger – Main Street Meats
Ask a Chattanoogan for their favorite burger in town, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t mention Main Street Meats. In fact, this Southside neighborhood butcher only has one burger on the menu: a local beef patty dressed with house pickles, mustard, mayo, caramelized onions, bacon, and gruyère. Complete your order with a side of house-made fries and a cocktail for a swoon-worthy feast.
2. Muffaletta – River Street Deli
Just a stone’s throw from Coolidge Park sits River Street Deli, an unassuming New York-style delicatessen selling some of the best sandwiches around. Everything is great here, although the Muffaletta – a New Orleans-style Italian sandwich made with Genoa salami, Capicola ham, mortadella, pastrami, Swiss cheese, provolone, and a green olive and artichoke tapenade – comes especially praised by die-hard fans.
3. Crispy Brussels – Two Ten Jack
Warehouse Row occupant Two Ten Jack is known far and wide for their steaming bowls of ramen. However, if you haven’t ordered the crispy brussels as a starter, you’re missing out. These addictive, umami-like morsels are elevated thanks to a miso vinaigrette and shichimi, a seven-ingredient Japanese spice blend. Even if you think you don’t like brussels sprouts, after tasting this dish, you’ll probably learn that you’re wrong.
4. Detroit-Style Pizza – Community Pie
It’s hard to choose just one pizza in Chattanooga, but the Detroit-style pizza at Community Pie is in a league of its own. Cooked in a metal pan, this pizza style creates a thick, airy crust that is unique and delicious. For toppings, we highly recommend the Drunk Pig – a melt-in-your-mouth combo of vodka sauce, ricotta, Italian sausage, fresh mozzarella, parmesan, and crushed red pepper.
5. Fried Catfish – Uncle Larry’s Restaurant
Uncle Larry’s is, put simply, a Chattanooga institution. Now with three locations, this seafood restaurant serves up some of the best fried fish the South has ever tasted, thanks in part to owner Larry Torrence’s secret seasonings. The fish comes out hot and crispy with sides like cole slaw, turnip greens, white beans, and fried okra. Did we mention the restaurant’s slogan is, “Fish so good, it will smack ya!”?
6. Jackfruit Nachos – Cashew
Cashew, a plant-based café, is beloved by the vegan crowd, but it’s also been known to convert even the most carnivorous eaters. One dish that does just that is the jackfruit nachos, complete with tortilla chips, jackfruit BBQ, cashew cheese, coleslaw, dill ranch, tomato, avocado, and green onion. You also shouldn’t sleep on Cashew’s case of vegan desserts – we’re talking cookie dough cupcakes, blueberry donuts, and an avocado black bean brownie.
7. Crab Dip – Whitebird
When Whitebird opened its doors in 2018, it quickly became a local favorite with its modern take on Appalachian cuisine. One dish that repeat customers continually rave about is the hot crab dip served with a side of warm, grilled baguette. Here, jumbo blue crab, smoked cheddar, and local Hoff sauce are combined into a bubbling concoction that always impresses, and after tasting it, you’ll understand why.
8. Beignets – SideTrack
You’ll have to catch SideTrack’s popular Sunday brunch to get a taste of their pillowy beignets. Dusted with copious amounts of powdered sugar, the beignets will transport you straight to the French Quarter without ever leaving Chattanooga – we bet you can’t eat just one! Pair your pastries with mimosas for a sweet, and delectable, start to your day.
9. Hash – Bluegrass Grill
Bluegrass Grill is one of those not-so-hidden gems in Chattanooga’s Southside with a loyal fan base and a breakfast menu that’s worth waking up for. While it’s impossible to order wrong here, the restaurant’s hash dishes – all sautéed with made-from-scratch home fries – are a perennial favorite. Meat-eaters will enjoy the corned beef hash, and the tofu hash is sure to please any plant-based patron.
10. Fire Blossom Bowl – Totto Sushi & Grill
There’s no denying poke bowls are trendy right now, but the Fire Blossom Bowl at Northshore’s Totto Sushi & Grill proves they’re here to stay. Sitting on a bed of warm sushi rice is spicy tuna and salmon, red onion, scallion, fried garlic, avocado, edamame, masago, spicy mayo, and sriracha sauce. Want to swap out some ingredients? Totto also lets customers make their own bowls with their choice of base, protein, toppings, and sauce.
11. Grilled Romaine Salad – Alleia
Multiple menu items at rustic Italian locale Alleia deserve a spot on this list – such as the hand-dipped ricotta bruschetta, the blue crab gnocchi, and the flourless chocolate cake, just to name a few – but the grilled romaine salad is truly a treat. Accented with guanciale (house-cured pork jowl) and bra duro (a sharp Italian cheese), this hearty salad will convince you that salads can be deliciously indulgent.
12. Buttermilk Pancakes – Aretha Frankenstein’s
Aretha Frankenstein’s is a neighborhood diner that’s home to gigantic golden-brown pancakes. The pancakes are so famous, in fact, that you can purchase their Insanely Great Pancake Mix online … but if you’re already in Chattanooga, why not get them freshly made by the people who do it best? If you’re feeling fancy, order some blueberry mélange to spread on top – you won’t be disappointed.
13. Pimento Cheese – Public House
It doesn’t get more Southern than pimento cheese, and Public House does the delicacy justice. At this downtown darling, the dip is served with grilled sourdough and fried pickles – spread the creamy cheese over the warm bread, then top it with a couple of pickles for an explosion of flavor you won’t soon forget. The pimento cheese makes the perfect starter to your meal, whether you order the customer-favorite pot roast or Public House’s take on the classic cobb salad.
14. Oysters – Easy Bistro
The oysters at Easy Bistro are just one of many fantastic offerings from owner and chef Erik Niel, a James Beard semifinalist who also owns aforementioned Main Street Meats. While the restaurant focuses on farm-raised Gulf coast oysters, East and West coast varieties also make an appearance on the menu. Don’t miss out on Oyster Happy Hour – from 4 until 5 p.m. daily, all specialty oysters are buy one get one free price!
15. Espresso Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream – Clumpies Ice Cream Co.
Although more dessert than dish, we couldn’t complete this list without giving Clumpies Ice Cream Co. a shout out. Their micro-batch, hand-crafted ice cream can be found at three locations throughout the city, and customers have their choice of classic and seasonal flavors. Always on the menu is an espresso-inspired coffee ice cream that gives coffee lovers a new way to enjoy their favorite drink.