Inside The Comedy Catch venue at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. (Photo: Staff)

This week, I continued my search for Chattanooga’s best happy hour at the relatively new Backstage Barat The Comedy Catch.Located at 29 Station St. in what has become an epicenter of entertainment, Backstage is nestled between Revelry Room, Stir and the new Hush Lounge (at Revelry Room).

Although it’s a tiny space, The Backstage Bar boasts one of the largest whiskey collections in the city, offering reasonably priced flights and samples from more than 80 whiskeys and 30 scotches. The venue also shares a kitchen with The Comedy Catch, allowing for a full menu of gastropub-style food to be served.

Happy hour is from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. The simple menu includes $3.50 well drinks, $1 off beer and $2 off wine. Individual meatball sliders (a Comedy Catch tradition) are $1 each, and shrimp cocktail and nacho supreme plates are $5.

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I’ve also heard the “Blue Collar Brunch” on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. is excellent, though I’ve yet to try it.

A classic whiskey and Coke to take the edge off. (Photo: Staff)

Atmosphere/service
The Backstage Bar is easy to find from the Station Street side. Go up the steps and you’ll discover a tiny room with a bar, open kitchen and a few tables. My bartender was Kirk, and I happened to be the only person in the venue on this Wednesday night at 5:30. I’m a member of Improv Chattanooga, a local comedy improv troupe, and we perform at The Comedy Catch on the first Wednesday of each month. I always find myself at The Backstage Bar a few hours ahead of the show to make sure I have enough liquid courage to perform.

If you haven’t seen a show at the new Comedy Catch lately, make it a priority. The new room is cozy and the acoustics are fantastic. Click here for the upcoming schedule.

Kirk explained to me the ins and outs of whiskey flights. Apparently, you can greatly reduce the cost of your whiskey consumption through these flights, but I wasn’t confident enough in my ability to maintain composure after shots of whiskey. Instead, I ordered a happy hour whiskey and Coke. George Dickel is the well whiskey, and although it’s a simple cocktail, it goes down easy. I will note that these cocktails are served with a double-radius straw, which makes them go down extra-quickly. Sip from the glass and you’ll be fine.

If I had to describe the feel of Backstage Bar, it would be “cozy and comfortable.” There isn’t anything luxurious about the wooden barstools, television screens and food, but it doesn’t have that “hotel bar” vibe, either. After an hour or so, more people showed up and the conversations started to flow. I think the entire Choo-Choo complex is poised to become an even larger social gathering spot-think a less drunk Beale Street or, probably more appropriate, Chattanooga’s version of Nashville’s Printer’s Alley. I like it.

Pork sliders with a pickle on each. (Photo: Staff)

The food/drinks
Kirk talked me into sampling a shot of TinCup whiskey because I’m an easy sell. The list of whiskeys is truly impressive-the only rival being The Social’s collection-and I respect anyone who would attempt to tackle either list. Improv Chattanooga artistic director Kevin Bartolomucci showed up, and we had a lively discussion about the origins of “Saturday Night Live” before our show. Kevin also told me about the early days of late-night television. We drank a few drinks, and I decided I needed to order some food.

The menu is surprisingly large for a small venue, although Kirk later told me the same kitchen services both The Comedy Catch and Backstage. Guests can start with openers such as sweet potato fries, hummus platter or shrimp cocktail. Features include classic bar food such as nachos, jalapeƱo poppers, chicken tenders and fried mushrooms. Meatball sliders, pulled pork sliders (Caribbean-style), turkey burgers and traditional burgers are also offered.

Kirk suggested I try the pork sliders, so I obliged. The three sliders were filled with pulled pork and topped with a Caribbean jerk-style sauce and pickles. They come served on challah rolls from Bluff View Bakery. Unfortunately, the picture does not do this justice. I found them to be slightly spicy, but not too hot, as “jerk-style” sometimes implies. I only needed two to fill me up, but I ate all three. The platter comes served with a generous portion of seasoned fries and ketchup.

The sliders are served with a generous portion of fries. (Photo: Staff)

By the end of our meal-and nearing our 7 p.m. showtime-the bar was filled with patrons. Kirk said many people are still unaware of The Backstage Bar but that business has picked up since their whiskey tasting event at Mainx24. I imagine as The Comedy Catch continues to solidify a place in downtown-after years of being outside the epicenter of activity-that more and more locals will begin navigating that way. Whiskey lovers should be ecstatic with The Backstage Bar’s selection.

The whiskey wall at Backstage Bar. (Photo: Staff)

Would we go back?
I’ll be visiting Backstage Bar at least once a month now that we’re a regular fixture of the rotation. I can also see myself enjoying a few cocktails and a bite before a show at Revelry Room or Track 29. This venue feels far less crowded-at least on the nightsI’ve been there-than Stir or The Terminal Brewhouse. And sometimes, all you need is a stiff drink to start the night.

The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, notNooga.comor its employees.

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