This week, Monica and I visited Frothy Monkey at 1400 Market St. in the Choo-Choo complex for Wine Down Wednesday and dinner.
The coffeehouse concept restaurant—located next to Stir—has been a popular addition to Nashville since 2004 and has several locations throughout the city. And if our Wednesday night visit is an indication, you can expect Frothy Monkey to become one of Chattanooga's favorite gathering spots, too. As long as you're patient.
Frothy Monkey officially opened March 6. Diners should expect some kinks as the staff gets acclimated to the flow. I typically wouldn't write about a restaurant that had just opened, but considering other locations are already established—and thriving—I anticipated a strong start. However, our server told me the restaurant was "very understaffed" and that they "had not anticipated" the large crowds they've seen since opening. But other than a bit of frustration at the onset of the night, our overall experience was great. My advice: Be patient. Frothy Monkey is absolutely worth a visit. And it will only get better with time.
The first thing I noticed about Frothy Monkey was how much of the original Choo-Choo feel that designers kept. Like Stir, even though it's a new restaurant, the atmosphere still gives the feeling that you're dining in an old train station, which, of course, you are. I also noticed the juxtaposition of the customers. One table was full of lawyers drinking cocktails, while another table was filled with schlubby college students studying and drinking coffee. The "fancy" bar area, outside patio and long community tables in the back offer a spot for anybody to feel comfortable. It really is a welcoming space.
Initially, we were a bit confused as to how to order. Foolishly, we stood in line for 10 minutes at the coffee counter, but when our turn came up, we were told that we could have taken a seat anywhere after 5 p.m. for table service. We didn't know that. Lesson learned. In the evening, just sit anywhere you want—except the upstairs balcony—and a server will visit your table.
We chose a small two-top next to the bar area. On Wednesday evenings from 5 to 7 p.m., guests can enjoy Wine Down Wednesday, featuring three samples of wine and access to a cheese and fruit buffet. Monica and I sat for almost 15 minutes before a server visited our table, so she snagged a napkin full of cheese while we waited.
Finally, Monica and I ordered drinks—she went with the Wine Down Wednesday and I ordered a rye mule cocktail. It was probably against the rules, but Monica and I both munched from the cheese plate—and I drank her wine—as we waited for my drink. It finally showed up after another 15 minutes. Our server explained that only one person was making the drinks and that he was backed up. Regardless, it was refreshing and delicious, and I would order it again. During WDW, each wine is delivered to your table and a server walks you through tasting notes and potential pairings. The concept is a great idea, and I expect it to become popular. At $15, it's a heck of a deal.
We were hungry enough to gorge ourselves a little bit. We started with a baked brie "shareable," featuring caramelized pears and walnut chutney, along with spring greens. It was almost sweet enough to be a dessert. We ate the entire thing, of course. No regrets.
For dinner, Monica and I went back and forth a bit. The sandwiches—especially the PMP (prosciutto, mozzarella and provolone)—all sound delicious. The dinner menu offers everything from fish to pizza, crabcakes to pasta. The entrées are also reasonably priced for the amount of food you receive. Monica eventually settled on the sausage burger with pork sausage, bacon and roasted potatoes. I went for the shrimp and grits, which were recommended by our server. I mean, look at the below picture. How yummy does that look?
Our food arrived much quicker than our drinks. Monica's sausage burger was enormous. Neither of us had ever had a sausage burger before, but you can bet we'll be having another soon. My shrimp and grits were also tantalizingly different. The grits were barley grits, which offer a much earthier flavor than traditional white grits. I also appreciated the ham mixed into the base. It added a rich flavor to the sauce. The shrimp were plentiful and cooked to perfection. I can highly recommend both dishes.
Would we go back?
By the end of our Frothy Monkey experience, we were both satisfied. The start was a bit rocky, but I imagine that will improve as more staff is hired and trained. The restaurant was completely packed, and they did their best to accommodate everybody. But, hey, if you need a job, they're hiring now. We look forward to our next visit. I think we'll wait a few months, though. Frothy Monkey isn't going anywhere, and it's a great addition to the Southside dining culture.
The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.