The idea behind this series is fairly simple: My girlfriend and I will go out to eat at a Chattanooga-area restaurant and then describe our dining experience there. Keep in mind that this is not a food review per se, but instead an attempt to relate to readers our single, one-time experience at a restaurant. It just is what it is, as they say. There will also be pictures. Lots of pictures.
I am a 30-year-old voracious eater of anything weird, while my girlfriend, age 24, is the complete opposite. This makes dining for us a strange affair. I enjoy a tremendous amount of flavor and complexity, but her M.O. is "simple, no frills." These dining adventures will test both of us at various restaurants around Chattanooga. After three days of heavy-lifting moving from East Brainerd to downtown, we sought sustenance at the Track’s End Restaurant on Amnicola Highway.
What: Track's End Restaurant
Where: 3435 Amnicola Highway
Hours: Open 24 hours
For more information: Click here
This small, unassuming diner is connected to a "railroad persons-only" hotel. Suitably named, the restaurant is designed to be a place to go when you’ve reached the end of the tracks. However, regular people (a good way to define Lauren and myself) are allowed to eat. The menu features a number of items—both breakfast and dinner—with railroad names like "Trainmaster" and "Casey Jones." Burgers are also hilariously(?) named: "The Conductor" is a classic double cheeseburger; "The Iron Horse" is a bacon burger. They ran out of clever names for the sandwiches and dinner entrées. Breakfast is served all day. Our server, Meghan, was training another server throughout our meal.
We were seated in a booth near the back of the restaurant while a man (we’ll call him "the cook") explained, loudly, to the new server that the chicken platter was only available as a four-piece and could not be a two-piece, as the customer on the phone had ordered. This back and forth went on for a while. The atmosphere was not unlike a Waffle House. There was a lot of action; however, I would argue that "the show" is much better at Waffle House. This was more like a bad reality TV show where the participants keep desperately vying for the audience’s attention. Every action seemed poorly improvised. The interior was clean, and evidence suggested—specifically the Chattanooga-themed art on the walls—that the establishment was a little more than a year old. We were optimistic with reservations about our meal.
Feeling peckish but not wanting to ruin my dinner with pepper jack "cheese shotz" or a Frito chili pie, I ordered a dinner salad with Italian dressing. How do you write about a salad like this? It was edible and as serviceable of a dinner salad as I’ve had, while also totally unremarkable. Lauren skipped out on the salad, saving her appetite for an 8 p.m. breakfast. I had half and half tea, and Lauren had a fountain water, which she would admit later was her "favorite part of the meal."
I asked our server a simple question: "What’s the best item on the menu?" Her response was secretive and vague. She proceeded to give me a list of the most popular items on the menu, which means the most frequently ordered but does not mean "the best." This is how I ended up ordering a Philly cheesesteak sandwich with crinkle-cut fries. Lauren, in what I felt was a much bolder choice given the circumstances, ordered a "Yardmaster" omelet with bacon and cheese. After a few false starts—my cheesesteak was delivered to the table sans fries by mistake—the food arrived, and we proceeded to dig in. The cheesesteak was actually pretty tasty. It sat under a hot lamp a little too long, which made the bread soggy, but the flavor of the steak, peppers and cheese was on par. The fries were just the crinkle-cut variety available at any grocery store. Lauren’s plate had some issues. Her omelet was a massive square-shaped thing that could have fed a village if it had been cooked thoroughly. Instead, about a quarter of the way in, I heard the word "ewww," and we both noticed much of the omelet was still yolky and undercooked. In addition, the bacon pieces were too large for the structure of the omelet. This was the first time we’ve had to send something back to the kitchen. To their credit, the omelet ($4.25) was removed from our bill, and apologies were made.
Hoping to put the mediocre meal behind us, we ordered an apple cobbler dessert from the daily menu. To your right is the picture of what arrived. For starters, it was a huge portion. I’ll give them credit for not slacking in terms of quantity. Unfortunately, there was nothing "cobbler" about this dish other than the name. The baked topping was mushy, and we both had a moment of nostalgia because the taste of the baked apples was identical to that of an elementary school cafeteria. The apples were steaming on the top and cold on the bottom, suggesting the dish was compiled previously and microwaved to order.
Would we go back?
Expectations are everything with a low-cost diner like Track’s End. But it’s not unreasonable, in my opinion, to expect your food to be cooked thoroughly. According to our server, Track’s End has been operating for almost a year. Isn’t that plenty of time to get your act together? The kitchen is poorly operated, and the employees seemed less interested in working and more interested in chatting. We do not recommend Track’s End; there are a McDonald’s and Burger King a few feet away. I would rather spend my $20 there.
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