In June 2011, McCallie graduate Mark Oldham took over ownership of downtown Chattanooga's Stone Fort Inn, and now, he is opening a new restaurant there.
He has been involved in the restaurant business for years and got reacquainted with Chattanooga while visiting a friend who was sick and has since died, he said.
"I fell in love with Chattanooga all over again," he said. "I hadn't been here in a long time. I'd read about what great things are happening. I came across this inn and absolutely fell in love with it."
TerraMae Appalachian Bistro will open Dec. 12.
It will be open Wednesday through Saturday, beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Reservations are highly recommended.
Oldham invested $250,000 in the new restaurant, called TerraMae Appalachian Bistro, and renovations. But his total investment in the inn is more than $2 million, he said.
The majority of that—about $200,000—is for TerraMae, which means "Mother Earth" in Portuguese, Oldham said.
His team renovated about half of the 15 guest rooms, Oldham said.
"The previous owner branded it as a bed and breakfast," he said. "We are trying to transform it into Chattanooga's only boutique inn."
Oldham and David Mitchell, who recently relocated to Chattanooga with his wife and young daughter, connected after Oldham put an ad online.
He was looking for someone to help him create the food aspect of the inn. He wanted someone without a big ego who wanted to work to create food from fresh, local ingredients.
Mitchell responded and the two—along with chef Robert Stockwell—implemented their vision.
Stockwell came from Houston, Texas, and has trained under celebrity chefs and created "cutting-edge" menus at restaurants around the country.
The result is an Appalachian bistro that the team describes as a "culinary celebration of the flavors loved from the peaks of Maine to the foothills of Tennessee and Georgia," according to a news release. "From seafood to elk to chicken and more—all accompanied by fresh farm vegetables—it's regionally local and fresh. And it's all from Mother Earth in our unique, creative way."
The previous restaurant was for guests only, and Oldham is bringing in a new team, menu, decor and branding.
TerraMae seats 90 people and is open to the public. Oldham said the team already has several holiday events booked this season.
Mitchell compared the new restaurant to St. John's Place, Easy Bistro, Alleia and 212 Market, saying TerraMae will have similar price points and quality.
The menu will have more traditional options and food for more adventurous eaters who want to try the latest culinary trends, leaders said.
TerraMae will also feature a full bar with unique selections.
Updated @ 8:22 p.m. on 12/6/12 to correct a factual error: Oldham has invested $2 million total in the restaurant, not just $250,000, as originally reported.