What is Date Night Dining?
In a nutshell, this column is all about food in Chattanooga. I will take people out for dinner and lunch dates at various restaurants in the Chattanooga region. It is not meant to be a review per se, but an account of a one-time experience at a restaurant.
For this week’s column, I met local marketing specialist Charlie Milburn (@charliemilburn) for lunch at the relatively new Mrs. B’s Reggae Café at 3103 Broad St. The restaurant features the flavors of the island of Jamaica. Didn’t they have a bobsled team once?
In the building formerly occupied by Soup’s On, the smell of curry chicken and Jamaican spices is a welcome change from the pimento cheese and tomato smells of yore. "No frills" is an apt description of the interior. However, I’m sometimes strangely consoled by a simple setup; it makes me believe more effort is going into the food they’re serving. The ordering process involves waiting in a line at the counter. The menu features the word "jerk" a lot: jerk chicken, jerk pork, jerk burger. But it also has vegetable curry and a dish called "reggae pasta," a vegetarian noodle dish with Jamaican spices. You can even get curried goat meat on Fridays and Saturdays. Charlie and I ordered our meals—including a crème brûlée for dessert—and made our way to one of the tables. We sat and waited while drinking our Jamaican sodas. Life was good in the moment. I was salivating so much that I kept dabbing the spittle from my mouth. Charlie noticed, I think, but didn’t say anything. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday at 10 a.m.
Charlie first heard of Ms. B’s the same way one hears about most things: "I found it on Facebook," he said. Chattanooga, to our knowledge, has no other authentic Jamaican restaurants. Charlie and his wife honeymooned in Jamaica, so his fondness for this cuisine resonates with those memories. I have never honeymooned in Jamaica, so I trust Charlie when he tells me that Mrs. B’s is as "authentic as a Jamaican restaurant on South Broad Street, Chattanooga, Tennessee, can be." Fair enough.
I had a delicious Jamaican ginger beer while Charlie drank a Ting, which contained sediments of grapefruit pulp. Charlie was slightly disappointed the restaurant was out of a callaloo, but he understood, considering how the dish would need to be imported. Our server was Matt, although I would consider his role as more of a food runner. There isn’t much interaction once the food is ordered and paid for. Once again, the lack of Jamaican-themed art and music was surprising. I expected bright colors, calypso music and a festive environment. Currently, the restaurant is going through the early stages of opening, and I’m sure they’ll ramp up the Jamaican theme once settled.
I was feeling a bit like a jerk (a criticism often hurled my way by women), so I ordered a dish of the "jerk" variety. I ordered a jerk pork/jerk chicken combo plate with "gungu," slaw and plantains. Charlie went with the curry chicken; plain rice; julienned vegetables with spice; and "festivals," a sort of fried bread log. Both the jerk pork and jerk chicken were mildly spiced and packed a tremendous amount of flavor. The gungu, a sort of mixed rice/bean dish, was a highlight for me. I was told the slaw would be "different," but it seemed fairly similar to every coleslaw I’ve had before. The plantains were perfectly cooked and seasoned. I was completely satisfied by my portion of the meal. Charlie tried the pork and called it an "interesting twist" on Southern barbecue. Charlie had zero complaints about his curry chicken, and he also ate every bite. I thought the curry chicken was delicious, but I much preferred the jerk seasoning.
Mrs. B is probably most famous for her "rum cake," which was unfortunately not offered on this day. Instead, we opted to split a crème brûlée, which I consider one of my favorite all-time desserts from any restaurant. This version was good, but I can’t help but think this would pale in comparison to the rum cake. Next time, I suppose.
Would we go back?
For me, Mrs. B’s Reggae Café is most definitely worth a return visit. The price—$44.56 with tip—was a little steep for an early week lunchtime meal. Each plate was almost $14, which doesn’t make it affordable as an "every day" kind of venture. We both look forward to return visits with the promise of authentic Blue Mountain coffee and more from the owners. With a little love and time, I think Mrs. B’s will become a staple on South Broad Street. As I write this a week after the meal, I find that familiar dribble starting again. I highly recommend, especially if you’re a patient person.
The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.