The interior of Fireside Grille. (Photo: Staff)

This week, Monica joined me for a quick dinner at Fireside Grille at 3018 Cummings Highway in Lookout Valley. An old-school bar/grille, Fireside seeks to be a place where you could enjoy a date night (yes, by the fire) or a ballgame with the guys on Saturday afternoon.

I heard about this place from Paul, a regular at Chattanooga Billiards Club Downtown. I go to CBC on the occasional Sunday to watch the NASCAR race and drink a mini-pitcher of cheap beer. You should join me sometime. It’s a great group. Your first cigar is on me.

On the website, Fireside Grille is described as follows:

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Fireside is a friendly hometown place where the locals go and our out-of-own visitors are greeted by friendly bartenders and servers so that they to [sic] feel at home. Come by and stay a while with us and you’ll be saying “I’ll have just one more.”

The only deterrent for some might be the cigarette smoke, which is encouraged. That tobacco-friendliness of the restaurant automatically makes Fireside Grille a 21-and-up establishment by law. So, no kids in strollers and high chairs. But, honestly, you don’t need to bring your kids here anyway unless … yeah … don’t bring them.

We were hungry for some good bar food, a cheap beer and some sports games on the TV. That’s exactly what we got from Fireside.

A basket of fried mushrooms. (Photo: Staff)

Atmosphere/service
We arrived at about 6 p.m. after a short, 10-minute drive from our house in Red Bank. When we pulled up, a gaggle of older white men were having an important meeting on the front porch. A bit of Holmesian deduction suggested the group was affiliated with a local golf club (they all had golf shirts on). Otherwise, the porch would be a great place to have an intimate dinner. We didn’t want to mess up their meeting—I don’t know anything about golf—so we sauntered inside.

It was much darker inside. The first thing I noticed was a long hallway in the back and billiards tables. The bar is up front and multiple tables are scattered throughout the room. Remember T-Bones? The black ceiling tiles and darker atmosphere reminded me of some late college nights at T-Bones with pool games, darts and buckets of beer. It was more nostalgic than I thought it would be. Also, do you know how some restaurants will let you stick business cards up everywhere? Instead of business cards, Fireside has black drop-ceiling tiles with individual advertisements on them in what appears to be chalk. It’s unique and a fun way to have ads without being too distracting. You can see them in the first photo above.

The Bacon Blue Burger. (Photo: Staff)

We’re in our 30s and were among the youngest people in the room. The table nearest to us was occupied by two couples. Each of the men had a bucket of domestic beer at their feet. Our server (who was also the only bartender) visited the table and brought us menus. She also got me a Miller Lite (why not?) and Monica a water. Tony Kornheiser’s voice was blaring from a TV directly behind me. I watched another sports show just to my left on a large TV. The point: if you want to watch TV sports, Fireside should be on your radar.

Monica and I decided to split an order of fried mushrooms as an appetizer. We took a look at the rest of our menus and waited for our server to return.

Food
There is a lunch menu and a dinner menu for Fireside. For this article, we’ll focus on the dinner menu because that’s when we visited. There are zero surprises (aside from a grouper basket): burgers, sandwiches, pizza, nachos, barbecue and steaks. I asked our server what her favorite items were and she pointed us to the burgers and steaks. The golf club meeting kept her way busier than she thought she’d be all night. She apologized several times for the wait, but we didn’t mind. As a server, an unexpected large party is the bane of their existence. Especially at a small place like Fireside.

The steaks are touted as some of the best in town. They offer rib-eye, New York strip and a hamburger steak dinner. I wasn’t feeling a huge steak on this night, so I ordered the Bacon Blue Burger with a side of fries. Monica went with the BBQ Pork Sandwich and onion rings. The fried mushrooms were served with a ranch dipping sauce. They tasted like fried mushrooms. Again, you’re not getting any surprise flavors at Fireside.

A bbq pork sandwich. (Photo: Staff)

Our food arrived after a short while and we dug in. Monica’s pork sandwich was good for a non-barbecue establishment. Her onion rings reminded me of the kind you’d find at Merv’s or Nikki’s Drive-In. They were lightly seasoned and heavily fried. My burger was good, but a tad overdone for my taste. I really enjoyed the french fries dipped in ranch dressing. They were much better than a crinkle-cut garden variety you might find at lesser establishments. I call good fries “basket fries,” as in you could eat them as a stand-alone item. These were good enough to order by the basket.

We didn’t see our bartender again for a bit at our table, so I went tried to find her at the bar when we were ready to leave. Of course, after sitting at the bar waiting for her, she shows up at the table behind me. There were just too many people for one person to deal with.

Would we go back?
Fireside Grille is not a place I would regularly attend. But that’s not to say it wouldn’t be exactly what you’re looking for in a hangout. This is especially true if you have fond memories of T-Bones or similar places. It’s not a date night spot unless your date likes cigarettes and sports. Maybe they do? If I lived in the area, I could certainly see myself here on the weekends to catch a sports game and throw back a few beers. It’s a place that you’d quickly become a “regular” and that’s not a bad thing at all.

The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

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