After all my years spent hustling (read: going to college, working and living) in downtown Chattanooga, I never pictured myself living anywhere else. But this year, domesticity got the best of me, and I found myself living on the outskirts of one of the most underestimated sections of our beloved city. Brainerd Road connects downtown (via McCallie/M.L. King Boulevard) to Lee Highway. This stretch is known, not surprisingly, as “Brainerd” and is generally perceived as a thoroughfare to more interesting parts of the city. Because of this image, city officials have proposed a plan to revitalize the Brainerd corridor. Will this revitalization take place? I hope so. Here are five things I’ve enjoyed about Brainerd since moving here.
South Chickamauga Greenway
Why doesn’t everyone use this greenway? It’s simply one of the best-kept secrets in Chattanooga. The greenway can be described as a sort of raised, graveled trail that winds through the Brainerd Levee in one direction and through the Sterchi Farm to Camp Jordan in East Ridge via the other. The whole trail is perfect for running, walking, biking and whatever else you want to do. And the best part about it is that you can walk off the trail and go directly to Walmart. The Brainerd portion begins at the intersection of Brainerd Road and Greenway View Drive, right behind Sweet Basil (more on that below). Just walk on it, and pick a direction. This isn’t hard.
Brainerd offers some of the best midprice-range culinary fare in the city. Right through the tunnels as you approach downtown, Out of the Blue features both cafe-style dining and kites. Both the pasta and chicken salads are tasty, as is the signature raspberry iced tea. On up, Heavenly Wings is my go-to place for lemon-pepper wings, which are the best I’ve ever had, anywhere. And we couldn’t talk about Brainerd without mentioning both India Mahal and Sweet Basil. India Mahal has some of the most addictive tandoori chicken in the entirety of the universe. The saag paneer (cheese curds/spinach puree) could stop wars. Just a few yards away, on the other side of the street, Sweet Basil is my favorite Thai-style food in Chattanooga. I’d never had crisp duck or an entire spicy catfish before, but now I can cross the delicacies off my food bucket list. What surprises me most about Sweet Basil is the consistency of both food preparation and service. The place is great. I’m sure I’m missing something. What are your favorite Brainerd eateries?
Brainerd Army Store
Have you ever said to yourself, “I need an Australian-style rucksack, a pith helmet and a pair of brown Carhartt overalls?” Well, if you have said that to yourself—or a similar phrase—you might feel right at home at the Brainerd Army Store. As soon as you walk through the door, you’ll understand why this place exists. This isn’t a store for aspiring entrants into the Army so much as it is a place for those individuals on the fringe of society and sanity. This is not a detriment, nor is it meant to be an insult. The Brainerd Army Store is a beautiful place that I visit often. It’s a place I try to give myself excuses to visit because it’s, well, just so weird. Where else can you buy a flashlight with a switchblade knife attached to it? Many cities have military surplus stores, but not many cities have one like the Brainerd Army Store. Avoid the used section for obvious reasons.
The Comedy Catch
I have performed at this renowned Brainerd comedy club, and I’ve never had a great set. However, this is mainly because of the fact that I’m a terrible comedian. I remember singing a song called “Diddled” (about my father molesting me while wearing a werewolf’s mask) and nearly getting booed offstage by the crowd. Then, a “professional comedian” asked to borrow my guitar and proceeded to sing “Me and Bobby McGee,” which received a standing ovation. I’ve seen terrible shows (a hypnotist who couldn’t hypnotize anybody) and wonderful shows (Doug Stanhope) at The Comedy Catch. I used to perform around town as a duo called “Seanathan” (Sean and Jonathan), and we were always welcomed to Giggles Grill during open mic nights. With the growing underground comedy scene in Chattanooga, I don’t get out to The Comedy Catch as often as I used to. Still, it will always hold a special place for me, and it’s in Brainerd, so I thought I’d list it.
ABC Liquors Inc.
Many a party has been started with purchases made at ABC Liquors Inc. on Brainerd Road. When I was living just through the Brainerd tunnels, this liquor store was the easiest place for me to get whiskey as soon as possible. I lived next to an elderly African-American man, and we developed a sort of daily routine: He would leave a $5 bill under my doormat in the morning, and I would swing by ABC Liquors Inc. on the way home from work. He wanted a “small bottle” (a pint) of New Amsterdam gin, which is rubbing alcohol with an artificial juniper berry flavor. Terrible, gut-rot, hobo water that stuff is. Even though I purchased this same $5 bottle every day, I never once told the employees of ABC Liquors Inc. that the bottle was for somebody else. They must have thought I was either really good at hiding my alcoholism or ... well, I really don’t know what they thought. I still go back to this place ever so often, and they always have a bottle of New Amsterdam waiting. I don’t buy it, of course.