1201 Broad St.
Chattanooga, TN 37402
11 a.m.-2 p.m.
11 a.m.-2 p.m.
An epic dining experience: world-class service, décor and menu options.
A superior dining experience: high-quality attributes you'll want to come back for again and again.
A solid dining experience: great characteristics but also some minor issues.
A mediocre dining experience: may have a few good highlights but major flaws.
A terrible dining experience: stay far away unless it's the only place left to eat to avoid starvation, and even then, question if it's worth it.
The Chattanoogan hotel revamped its Broad Street Grille earlier this spring, setting out to make the restaurant stand alone from the hotel as a high-tier dining establishment anchored by new head chef Drew Milsap. Part of this renovation included a new entrance on Broad Street, so last Thursday I was able to pop right in without having to roam through the hotel lobby.
Atmosphere and service
As my party and I walked in, we were greeted immediately and seated in the large, open interior. The classy, contemporary décor was both welcoming and intimate, with warm, earthy tones and low lighting in the dining area. The Broad Street Grille features an open kitchen, so I could see Milsap and his sous-chef busy mixing, stirring, searing, sautéing and plating throughout the evening.
In front of the kitchen area were several stations used for their various buffets, including breakfast, lunch, Sunday brunch and special dinner events. On this evening they were launching their new Italian dinner buffet ($18.50), which is now on the third Thursday of each month, so I wanted to see what was up with it. Milsap was keeping an eye on the buffet stations, constantly checking and stirring the dishes, while also manning the kitchen for menu orders.
The menu is fluid, constantly changing with ingredients available—there are many local ingredients used, and a list of regional farms and providers is on the menu. One of the options is the "farm to table tasting menu" ($29) in which Milsap chooses a few specialty selections each evening. So, of course, we went with that as well to see what this chef was going to bring to the table.
My server was, in a word, awesome. This dude knew his stuff, rattling off dish descriptions and explaining future events without hesitation. He was very fun and friendly, joking around with us and constantly checking on the table to make sure we were doing OK.
We began with the hydroponic salad with herb-chardonnay vinaigrette ($5). The radishes were light without a bitter bite, and the cucumber and greens were fresh and full of flavor. The pistachio chevre was glorious, and shaving some off to mix with the hydroponic greens gave a stoutly creamy and nutty punch to each bite.
From the farm to table tasting menu, the first dish that came out was seared scallops over a bed of flavorful, multicolored Israeli couscous and topped with micro greens. The scallop had a nice sear on the top and bottom, and it was a heavenly silky consistency like warm butter. It seemed to slightly melt against my teeth as I slowly chewed, savoring every bite as I involuntarily closed my eyes in pure bliss. These scallops could not have possibly been cooked any better. This dish was perfection.
Next from the tasting menu, my server brought out the blue crab "puppies," which were crab cake balls with a tasso remoulade, grilled lemon aioli and micro greens. This fanciful mixture was lightly crispy on the outside with an extremely moist and delicate interior. The light, savory flavor of the cake was well-dressed in the velvety sauces in a perfectly creamy balance with a slight tang.
Meanwhile, I had roamed on over to the Italian buffet to load up on samples from their antipasto bar. There were several items, including Caesar salad, heirloom-tomato salad, bleu cheese, brie, cured meats and olives, pickled okra spears, housemade giardiniera, red pepper relish and tapenade. They were all high-quality, fresh and refreshing.
I also grabbed a cup of the local vegetable and tomato soup with bruschetta croutons, which had squash, zucchini and onion in its chunky tomato base. This soup was powerfully flavored with garlic and basil, and the crunchy bruschetta crouton sticks were perfect for sopping up this lively festival of summer vegetables.
The bread served at the table was a fresh, crusty sourdough served with extra virgin olive oil infused with a bouquet of herbs and spices for dipping. This infusion came in multiple waves of flavors as it resonated in my palate with each bite. This was a superior olive oil mixture, as it piqued my interest just as much as the slew of other dishes I tried. And, oh man, did I try a LOT of dishes …
The timing was perfect on the arrival of our dishes. As soon as one was finished, the next one was not far behind—although with high-quality food like this, you want to go about it slowly to savor the flavors, so we were not rushing the meal by any means. After the first two courses of the farm to table tasting menu were finished, next came the main entree: filet mignon with mashed potatoes and asparagus.
Although it was mostly cooked to our medium rare specification, one side was approaching medium. But overall, it was a well-cooked piece of meat, extremely tender and bursting with juices. The BSG steak sauce provided a rich flavor to the meat, thick mashed potatoes and perfectly firm asparagus spears. It was a rich and hearty dish, perfectly capping off the lighter scallop and crab courses on this chef's specialty tasting menu this evening.
Next, I sampled the chicken Florentine ($19), which was chicken breast stuffed with spinach and mozzarella and served with a shrimp and leek risotto and micro greens. The risotto was flavorful but very light on salt. However, as a complete dish, the saltier aspect of the chicken with the spinach/mozzarella mixture balanced it out in perfect harmony.
Roamin' back to the buffet, I snagged samples of each of the main pasta dishes. Although dishes in buffet platters start to diminish in quality over time, as I previously said, Milsap was constantly inspecting and stirring the noodles and sauces, making sure they were up to par. All the pasta types (spaghetti, linguini and farfalle) were still at a good al dente firmness and moisture level in their buffet platter baths.
Each pasta type had an accompanying sauce, but, of course, they could be mixed and matched according to whatever whimsy one desired. The meatballs in marinara are one of Milsap's secret family recipes, and they were very soft and absorptive of this tangy tomato sauce. Although I'm sure veal was a primary ingredient, out of respect I will not reveal this delicious secret recipe—as if I could actually figure it out.
The blackened chicken alfredo sauce was dense with a slightly spicy kick and had voluptuous chunks of chicken breast. The sauce was well-seasoned with herbs and spices and was one of the best alfredos I've had in a long time. However, my favorite sauce this evening was the spinach and artichoke with shaved Grana Padano. This heavily thick mixture was not skimping on the dreamy artichoke hearts, which romanced the powerful flavors of the creamy mixture into a grand crescendo.
And then there was the baked penne with Kalamata olives, mozzarella and Italian sausage puttanesca—which literally means "whore's-style," and yes, this review has slowly been descending deep into food porn territory. The spicy sausage provided a powerful punch to the tomato mixture, with the strong olives giving it an extra bite. The creamy mozzarella capped off the top of this union of flavors, quelling the intensity of their interfusion.
We had a trio of dessert shots ($5), which are tiny portions in double shot glasses. We went with the Meyer lemon pound cake, strawberry shortcake and tiramisu. All three were delightful, sweet, wee flavor bombs.
The Italian buffet had a broad range of dessert selections with a wide array of toppings for ice cream as well. I sampled the chocolate cheesecake, which was extremely sweet and rich and too much for me to handle more than the bite I intended. The apple crumb cheesecake bites were good, and the pecan pie was loaded with caramel, providing a sweetly sticky finish to the meal.
I am giving the Broad Street Grille 4 stars for an exquisite experience in all aspects, and, as of this writing, this was the best meal I've had so far in my Nooga.com reviews. On this night, my party and I dined like royalty with flavors harmonizing like a bardic song in a sensual dance of the palate. The service could have not possibly been better, and over the wide span of dishes I sampled, Milsap's superb cooking skills swept across all of them, even in maintaining a buffet to a high level. I give my compliments to the chef for a truly epic meal.
Roman Flis is a wandering writer, focusing on Chattanooga's food scene. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.