This week, I thought I’d discuss some of my favorite underrated eating establishments in Chattanooga.
It’s either that or an overview of another boring salad as we slog through the last week of the Whole 30 program. You don’t want to hear about it and I don’t want to talk about it. I’ll get back to regular Date Night Dining columns next month.
To me, underrated is a place under the radar of daily options. In other words, you don’t think about an underrated restaurant as an option when you’re weighing where to eat dinner or lunch.
There are restaurants that everybody talks about-Alleia, The Flying Squirrel, Mojo Burrito, Taconooga, Community Pie-many of which are always at the tip of my tongue when people ask for suggestions.
But there is so much more if you do a little digging. I thought it might be fun to revisit some of my favorite underrated Chattanooga-area restaurants.
The below list is just a start. I expect some of you to suggest Mrs. B’s Reggae Café, Mike’s Hole in the Wall, Boccaccia Ristorante Italiano and even Pickle Barrel, which some people say is wonderful and others hate with a passion I can’t understand. I’m in the former category. Have you tried the fried pickles? I mean, c’mon.
And before you ask, no, I’m not doing a “most overrated” column. But that list would certainly include Urban Stack Burger Lounge and Champy’s Famous Fried Chicken. Sorry.
What are your picks for underrated Chattanooga restaurants? Let me know in the comments.
Opa, 249 River St.
Opa is the restaurant I always suggest when people ask, “Where’s a good place to eat?” because it’s not just good, it’s wonderful. Located near Coolidge Park on the back of Frazier Avenue, Opa is a simple Mediterranean restaurant with some of best flavors you’ll eat in Chattanooga. The recent porch expansion adds more seating, and I encourage you-implore you, even-to support chef/owner Michael Bourodimos and his vision. Souvlaki pitas, dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) and the best tomatoes I’ve ever eaten can be found at Opa. Don’t even get me started on their signature chocolate cake topped with baklava. Here’s my article about Opa from 2014. Click here for restaurant hours.
Fresh Pot Café, 5425 Highway 153
Occasionally, Monica and I will get a craving for yucca logs and coconut salmon. Of course, the only remedy for our craving is to indulge at the delicious-and highly underrated-Fresh Pot Café in Hixson. The menu features simple and flavorful Ecuadorian cuisine. Our favorite dish is the coconut seafood with yucca cakes, salmon, shrimp and broccoli smothered with a creamy coconut sauce topped with coconut flakes. On our last visit, I had a weirdly delicious watermelon salad with olives and feta. Another recent favorite is the grilled steak with lentils, rice and avocado. The food is healthy and the staff is pleasant. If you’ve never had Ecuadorian food, you’re in for a treat. Click here for hours.
Chopstix Viet Bistro, 6903 Lee Highway
Spring rolls, pho and naked chicken wings-not only does Chopstix Viet Bistro offer something different for your taste buds, but the owners make a visit something truly special. Located next to the new Champy’s location, Chopstix is housed in an unassuming former bank building. Monica and I agreed that it was some of the best pho we’ve had in Chattanooga. Likewise, I never imagined enjoying a “naked” wing (just salt and pepper), but I could eat a plateful of them. If you’re near the Shallowford Road/Lee Highway area, stop in for a great meal. Tell them we sent you. Here’s my original article.
Olive Branch Mediterranean Foods, 3992 Ringgold Road
Sometimes, your former college professors have good ideas. Dr. Betsy Alderman suggested we visit East Ridge for “the most authentic Greek food from real Greek people” that you’ll find in Chattanooga. She was spot-on. Olive Branch is both a restaurant and a Mediterranean market with a hot bar, bakery and packaged goods. Since my 2016 write-up for Date Night Dining, I’ve visited a handful of times, with each experience proving better than the last. The lasagna is to die for. So are the gyros. Nobody talks about Olive Branch, but it’s one of the best heavy lunch/dinner places you’ll find. And the staff is so sassy. You won’t outwit them.
Mr. Philly, 2701 Fourth Ave.
Mr. Philly is the definition of “underrated.” Located in an incredibly high-crime area of Chattanooga-just off East 23rd Street on Fourth Avenue near East Lake Courts-the odds are stacked against the establishment. But there’s something about this place that shines like a beacon of artery-clogging light (that analogy makes no sense). The restaurant-which serves pizza, Philly cheesesteaks, wings and more-offers some of the most extraordinary gut bomb delights in the city. You can quote me on that. I haven’t had a better cheesesteak in Chattanooga. Others have told me their Chicago-style deep-dish pizza is on par with any pizza in town. Mr. Philly is seriously underrated for what it is. Read my original write-up here. If ever there were a diamond in the rough ….
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