Chattanooga restaurants, from the down-home style to upscale bistros, have taken on the challenge of both paying tribute to and refining a “traditionally” Southern dish: the fried green tomato.
The movie “Fried Green Tomatoes” has been credited with the dish’s vaulting to a regional, if not national, culinary trend. In the 1991 feature film, characters Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison dig themselves into the community with a famous fried green tomato recipe at the Whistle Stop Cafe.
What followed was an outpour of adoration for the quintessential Southern dish with the crisp, golden brown breaded discs popping up on menus as appetizers, sides and accents on entrees.
As it happens, however, fried green tomatoes may not be as Southern as the movie’s use of the dish implies.
When Robert F. Moss—a Charleston food writer and culinary historian—looked into the roots of the dish, he discovered that original recipes emerge not from Southern kitchens, but in Jewish cookbooks and Northeast and Midwest households. Kosher manuals such as the “International Jewish Cookbook” and “Aunt Babette’s Cookbook,” published in 1919 and 1889, respectively, suggest fried green tomatoes as a breakfast dish.
Regardless of the origins, Chattanooga diners and chefs alike are both fans of the movie and of the dish. Green tomatoes are now becoming more commonplace in the seasonal produce sisters Sally and Susan Moses and their mother, Maggie Moses, collect from local farmers for the kitchen at 212 Market Restaurant.
“We want to show a Southern classic in a bit of a fancier way—something that everyone knows and loves but elevate it a little bit,” Chef Nicholas Goeller said. “And who doesn’t love fried green tomatoes?”
The 212 Market take features a breadcrumb and local buttermilk batter paired with Cajun slaw, feta cheese and a tomato serrano jam. The Moses women also dream up new twists like green tomato chow-chow and even green tomato cake.
Map your culinary route through the varying presentations and spins on what Maggie calls the “zip” of a green tomato with the following Chattanooga dining spots:
—Blue Plate, where fried green tomatoes come with cheese grits and Andouille sausage gravy.
—Food Works, where blackened fried green tomatoes come on top of prosciutto and goat cheese with a lemon vinaigrette.
—Blacksmith’s Bistro & Bar, where fried green tomatoes are layered with pimento cheese on top of black bean and booya chipotle sauces.
—Market Street Tavern, where crispy tomatoes are paired with avocado, roasted corn and poblano pepper succotash.
Eateries including Blue Orleans and Herman’s Soul Food also serve fried green tomatoes, and others, such as the Meeting Place and Easy Bistro & Bar, have been known to place the dish on their menus.