Updated: Aug 21
Chattanooga is a unique, vibrant, small city, with a young population. 25% of the population is 20-34. In the late 80’s and 90’s, city leaders made a focused effort to improve air quality (it had a serious air pollution problem) and revitalize the downtown.
The result is a mix of tourist attractions and funky neighborhoods. Old buildings are repurposed and interesting restaurants and pubs have popped up throughout the town. Breweries, distilleries, and art galleries are more common than souvenir shops. Most establishments are locally owned and operated, with unique offerings.
As we began to explore Chattanooga, three things struck me as unexpected. For a land locked city, you can get some amazing oysters. For a beer and barbecue town, the craft cocktails rock, and weekend brunch is huge.
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The Easy Bistro
I love raw oysters, due partially to the mermaid in me, partially hereditary. My Dad developed a love of raw oysters during his time in the Army at Fort Polk, Louisiana. He converted my Mom, all his children and most of his grandchildren into oyster lovers! I was shocked and pleased to find so many places to get really delicious oysters in Chattanooga.
The Easy Bistro has a varied selection of oysters daily, not surprising when I found out one of the owners has deep roots in Louisiana. I have slurped oysters from Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Washington State and the Gulf Coast, while enjoying a glass of Bubbly, at the Easy Bistro. My favorite thing to do is get a couple of several types and do a taste test. I can never decide if I like the small briny ones from Washington State best, or the fat buttery ones from the Gulf Coast.
In Chattanooga, I have come to appreciate mignonette sauce as an oyster accompaniment. It makes a nice alternative to the horseradish/ketchup concoction, so beloved on the Gulf Coast. I had it first at the Boathouse Restaurant. They have a delightful deck that overlooks the Tennessee River along the Riverwalk. A perfect place to enjoy their daily selection of oysters.Their menu extends beyond oysters, if others in your group are not oyster lovers. Virgola’s on Georgia offers oysters solo or part of a seafood tower and an extensive selection of wines to pair with them. Scottie’s on the River is a new place with a shaded deck that offers raw oysters with a view of the Market Street Bridge.
Prefer a Craft Cocktail with your oysters? Chattanooga has that as well. Stir, located in the Chattanooga Choo Choo terminal building, offers both. They have a large bar area, including indoor and outdoor seating, with a daily selection of oysters. Their Craft Cocktail selection is expansive. Drinks come with unique ice offerings, as part of the science in their mixology is based on dilution due to ice type. All that being said, it is fun to have a large rectangular cube in your Old Fashion and shaved ice in your Aviator. Easy Bistro also has a varied craft cocktail selection to go with their oysters. CaptK is fond of their Corpse Reviver, a rum based drink with bitters.
Matilda Midnight’s was our first experience with the cocktail scene in Chattanooga. When you walk in you are immediately embraced by the mid- century “three martini lunch” cocktail lounge vibe. You expect to find a gentleman in a tuxedo at the bar ordering a martini shaken not stirred. Their cocktail menu changes seasonally and has an astrological theme. I love the ones that have egg white in them, the frothy first layer is always a winner for me.
Two hotels, one new, one refurbished, have entered the Chattanooga cocktail scene. Alchemy, at the newly refurbished Westin Hotel, offers panoramic views of Lookout and Signal Mountains, outdoor seating, and an intriguing cocktail selection. The smoked Manhattan, is CaptK’s favorite. A smoking chamber is brought to your table after you make your bourbon and wood selection. The wood is lit and your drink is smoked while you watch. Your drink is infused with a smokey taste and ready to sip in just a few minutes.
The newly constructed and stylishly contemporary Edwin Hotel offers guests two places to sip cocktails. The bright modern Whitebird just off the lobby and the Whiskey Thief rooftop bar. One Saturday this fall, CaptK and I did a taste test at both establishments. Both had outstanding offerings, but the view from Whiskey Thief makes it my favorite. They offer a seasonally changing cocktail menu, 30 prestige whiskeys starting at $30 for a 2 ounce pour, 65 international whiskeys and blends, as well as 97 American whiskeys and blends. This is mecca for whiskey lovers in Chattanooga.
If you like to start your day with a cocktail, weekends in Chattanooga will not disappoint you. Weekend Brunch is huge. Bloody Mary and Mimosa Bars reign, allowing you to get your cocktail exactly as you like it. If you are looking for more originality in your morning libations, as well as deliciousness on your plate, don’t miss my three favorites. The Easy Bistro offers Wagyu Steak and Eggs, profiteroles and a morning inspired cocktail selection, that fills all my Jazz Brunch cravings.
The Bitter Alibi tops many lists as the best brunch in Chattanooga. I have also seen it ranked best brunch in Tennessee. I am a huge fan of the Andouille Hash with a Bacon Bloody Mary. They do not take reservations and the lines can be long. My third pick is the Flying Squirrel. Their house made Bloody Mary mix is blended with cucumber vodka for a tasty eye-opener. Add a plate of Corn Beef Hash or a Shrimp and Grits, and Sunday Funday is off to a good start.
It has been an unexpected pleasure to experience the culinary delights of this small but intriguing city. Check out their menus before you experience them, one delicious bite at a time.
For more Chattanooga inspiration, check out my post