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 25, 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. Our visit to Tupelo Honey Café in Knoxville was so wonderful we couldn’t wait to try Chattanooga’s version.
Our typical M.O. when planning to review a brand new restaurant is to give the management and staff a few months to settle in. Mistakes will be made early on, and it’s just not fair, in my opinion, to expect a sublime dining experience after a week of operation. We decided the new Tupelo Honey Café was different for several reasons. First, the restaurant is essentially a replica of the several THCs already in existence in Knoxville, Asheville, etc. The opening should be turnkey by this point. Secondly, as reported by Nooga.com, the staff had undergone extensive training leading up to the opening, and ringers (servers from other THC locations) helped in the training. Considering those factors, THC employees should "have it together," for lack of a better phrase.
Warehouse Row is still trying to figure out what it is, but having a THC adds at least a bustle of activity during the evening. The restaurant was bright, and our hostess was all smiles as she led us to our table. Surprisingly, there was little to no wait for a two-top, though the restaurant became increasingly busy throughout the meal. In particular, Chattanooga’s location has a ton of outdoor seating, something not available in Knoxville or Asheville. Our hesitations about the service were ill-founded when "James" walked up—our receipt said "James," but I think he called himself "Jake"—to take our order. After a little more than a week of operations, James knew the menu top to bottom. He was also quick to offer suggestions and promptly delivered to us a signature biscuit. This was shaping up to be a wonderful meal.
Breakfast is available any time at THC, which offers upscale "Southern-themed" dishes in hefty portions. They offer an extensive cocktail menu called The Pickled Okra, which has everything you could ever want, including whiskey flights to sample several whiskeys in one sitting without a full pour. The appetizers are fancy riffs on Southern staples. We ordered the "encore cheesy grit cakes" (with Sriracha on the side for dipping), and we each had a single cocktail because we don’t like spending the majority of our budget on drinks. Lauren had a "dangerous" drink called "The Porch Swing," which tasted exactly like sweet tea. James, our server, suggested I try a drink reminiscent of a "lazy summer day," which had blueberries in it. I couldn’t find this cocktail on the menu, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the blueberry mint julep that was listed. Regardless, it was delicious and minty. Are you keeping score? We hadn’t received our entrées yet and I had already consumed an entire biscuit, a griddlecake and a cocktail. Lauren said, "I could get fat here."
We made it a point to order different entrées than we had in Knoxville, so Lauren decided to beat the unseasonably chilly weather back with, and this is what the dish is called on the menu, "cheesy grill and toMAYto toMAHto soup." After wrestling a bit with James (not literally), I settled on the smaller portion of Brian’s shrimp and grits. Brian is the chef, and he takes so much pride in this dish that he gave it his name. After eating another biscuit (seriously, what is wrong with me?), our dinner arrived. Lauren, not a fan of tomato soup, said, "I could be a fan of this tomato soup." Her grilled cheese sandwich was gooey, ooey and all of those other words we use to describe melting cheese. I’ve eaten a lot of shrimp and grits, and THC’s version might be my favorite. The combination of savory, butter-doused, goat cheese-infused grits and the sweetness of the jumbo shrimp was just about heaven for my taste buds. The dish also had a little spice because of the roasted red peppers. This was a great meal that we absolutely couldn’t finish.
I did a few leg lunges in the Warehouse Row lobby hoping to free up a little room for an old-fashioned soda parlor float. The lunges almost caused a trip to the hospital, but I limped back to my seat, and Lauren and I shared a romantic dessert straight out of the 1950s. The float was simple, but it was highlighted with quality ingredients. The Sprecher Root Beer is, according to James, "what the root beer snobs drink." The ice cream was creamy, and the mug was frosty.
Would we go back?
Our meal was not cheap, but a visit to THC can also be an inexpensive endeavor if you omit cocktails and an appetizer. Our meal came to about $60 before tip, but again, we certainly indulged. We can’t wait to visit THC again; however, my body would appreciate a few days' respite before another meal like the one we had. The griddlecakes were a perfect breakfast, by the way.
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