This week, Monica and I met up with local photographer Rachael Crowe at the Westin’s Alchemy. Located way up on the 10th floor, Alchemy offers your choice of an indoor or outdoor cocktail/dining experience in a “smart casual” atmosphere. It doesn’t feel like Chattanooga when you’re up that high.
Monica and I had been eager to check out the new hotel—the giant gold-colored building at 801 Pine St.—since it opened in October. Alchemy is open to the general public Wednesday through Sunday from 5 to 11:30 p.m. Just hop into the lobby and ride the elevator to the 10th floor.
The former BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee building is unrecognizable after the DeFoor Brothers Development renovations. Seriously, take a look at some photos of the rooms, amenities and lobby. From the quirky valet workers with their safari hats to the miniature Eiffel Tower to the modern interior, the Westin has livened up the block a bit with a bit of je ne sais quoi. The curb appeal is impressive, and I felt like we were walking into a block of gold.
So Monica and I are getting married, and Rachael is going to photograph it as it happens. We met up to hash out details over cocktails and a few quick bites. We arrived a few minutes beforehand to scope out a good meeting spot. My first reaction to Alchemy was, “Wow, I’m underdressed in my flannel shirt, hoodie, beanie and sneakers,” but none of the besuited men at the bar or the staff batted an eye at my attire. I’ll make sure to fancy it up a bit next time. Monica, of course, looked lovely as always.
The outdoor seating at Alchemy offers a panoramic view of Chattanooga that is rare to find other than at, say, the Walden Club. But the benefit of this bar is the open-air concept, casual (and comfy) seating and heaters. I can see it becoming one of my favorite places to sit and have a cocktail. The venue also offers live, local acoustic music throughout the week.
Monica and I were planning on sitting outside, but it was just too cold, even with the heaters. Instead, we grabbed a high-top table inside and ordered two Knob Creek old-fashioned cocktails from the bartender. The cocktails were great—albeit pricey at $13 each—and well done. I would expect to pay that much for a premium brand whiskey cocktail in Chattanooga.
Rachael arrived and ordered a “Midnight Sun” cocktail from the menu. It’s a gin-based cocktail with tonic water, lemon, blackberries, mint leaves and simple syrup muddled over ice. Alchemy offers a nice selection of signature cocktails, a full wine list, scotch, bourbon and even a few local craft beers (Chattanooga Brewing Co.’s Chickbock, for example). See the full menu here.
Each of us chose a starter from the menu. Alchemy is far more of a bar/meeting spot than it is a sit-down restaurant. The menu offers items meant for sharing among a group of friends. Monica chose the shrimp fritters (fried shrimp on a sweet potato chip with chili sauce), Rachael ordered the horseradish and chive beer cheese with “torn bread” and pears, and I ordered the “Baby Bleus”—three blue cheese sliders.
Unfortunately, the food is where our experience went a bit off the rails.
To start, the horseradish and chive beer cheese was flavorless. The torn bread also lacked flavor, which means the experience of dipping the bread into the cheese was more of a textural experience. Wet bread. Likewise, the pear dipped in horseradish cheese just didn’t work for us. I’m a big fan of creativity, but this just wasn’t appealing at all.
We also got a side of regular fries. They were fine. Monica went so far as to say the fries were “literally the only thing I liked.” I was hoping the blue cheese burgers would redeem the meal, but they were cooked to death. You would need to visit my uncle’s annual backyard Fourth of July party to find burgers cooked like this. I didn’t taste any of the blue cheese flavor coming through, only the charred flavor of the meat. It’s a shame because a good blue cheese slider is one of my favorite bites.
The shrimp were fine, if a little bland considering the apparent chili sauce base. I thought the presentation was nice, and the sweet potato chips added a crunchy texture. Overall, we were underwhelmed by the food. Also, be sure to watch your spending. Our tab came to $84 before an extra $13 in taxes were added (including sales, food and wine/alcohol tax), making the total bill $97.
Would we go back?
Alchemy is a unique addition to the Chattanooga scene in terms of ambiance. Like I said above, the sky bar makes Chattanooga feel like a completely different city when you’re inside. The drinks were great, and I’ll definitely be back to try more of their signature cocktails. The views are worth a visit, sure, but I’ll eat somewhere else next time. I’m curious if you’ve visited what your experience might have been. Let me know in the comments below.
The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.