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Casual dining on the outdoor patio at the Flying Squirrel

Tennessee

Chattanooga, Tennessee: 5 Innovative Restaurants in the Downtown Dining Scene

By: Idoia Gkikas

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  • States:
    Tennessee

Whether you’re a true foodie or just seeking a great meal, Chattanooga’s eateries are always serving up something new.

Nicknamed the Scenic City, Chattanooga, Tennessee boasts the beauty of the Appalachian Mountain skyline and the picturesque Tennessee River, along with an array of natural and man-made attractions. As you explore downtown’s popular sites – the Tennessee Aquarium, Hunter Museum of American Art, High Point Climbing Center and many more – satisfy your appetite at these popular restaurants.

STIR at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Complex

You can’t talk about Chattanooga without mentioning the Chattanooga Choo Choo Complex, originally built as a train station in 1909. STIR, located in the historic station building, focuses on locally sourced, seasonal ingredients with a Southern twist – think fried green tomato burgers or scallop-and-shrimp mac and cheese. Try the precisely mixed signature artisan cocktails; an ice-chef hand cuts each ice cube to complement your drink.

A bartender at STIR mixing a signature cocktail

A bartender at STIR mixing a signature cocktail
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Gourmet Burgers at Urban Stack

Housed in Chattanooga’s oldest building, which dates to 1870, Urban Stack elevates the classic American hamburger to the point of delicacy, with Certified Angus Beef served in a variety of deliciously inventive ways. Check out the Specialty Stack menu, which features unexpected flavors such as Greek lamb and Asian barbecue served on locally baked buns. The side dishes also score points for originality. Try the Gouda creamed corn or fried chickpeas if you’re feeling adventurous, or go for healthier sides like the cucumber and black-eyed peas, almost pickled beets or tomato and blueberry salad.

Popular specialty stack burger and side at Urban Stack

Popular specialty stack burger and side at Urban Stack
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Flying Squirrel Bar: Inspired Small Plates and Drinks

The American Institute of Architects recognized the glass-and-wood-styled Flying Squirrel Bar as the Best Designed Bar in the USA. But what’s important here is the food, where locally sourced ingredients are transformed into artisanal dishes: gourmet deviled eggs with guacamole and chorizo, spicy fried chicken and pimento cheese with bacon jam. Wash it all down with a local craft beer or a Chattanooga Whiskey Old Fashioned. (Bring your ID to dinner: Flying Squirrel welcomes the 21 plus set, except for Sunday brunch.)

The wood and glass design brings the outdoors in at the Flying Squirrel

The wood and glass design brings the outdoors in at the Flying Squirrel
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Southern Inspiration at the Easy Bistro & Bar

Nominated for the coveted James Beard “Best Chef in the Southeast” Award in 2015 and 2017, Erik Niel at the Easy Bistro & Bar creates new Southern comfort foods such as cornbread cooked in bacon fat, shrimp and grits with andouille sausage, and beignets served with blackberries and sweet corn ice cream. Housed in the world’s first Coca-Cola bottling plant, the building adds a touch of history to its spacious, elegant atmosphere. Easy Bistro’s sister restaurant, Main Street Meats, is great for quick lunch bites and locally procured meats.

Patrons enjoy the modern menu and chic decor at Easy Bistro & Bar

Patrons enjoy the modern menu and chic decor at Easy Bistro & Bar
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Amanda Booker

Upscale Dining at St. John’s Restaurant

Chattanooga’s only AAA 4-Diamond restaurant is located in a vintage 1900s hotel and specializes in American cuisine. At St. John’s Restaurant, seasonally-themed dishes are inspired by both land and sea and sourced from nearby farms. Expect to see everything from monk fish to free-range chicken, bison or antelope on the menu. For a memorable dining experience, this elegant restaurant fits the bill.

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Getting There

You can access the Chattanooga Airport (CHA) from major U.S. gateway cities including Washington, D.C., Dallas, Chicago, Newark and Charlotte. If your flight is into Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport (ATL), you can rent a car for the short, two-hour drive to Chattanooga.