This week, I decided to take advantage of the EPB power outage and visit a restaurant I love but rarely visit — Niedlov’s Breadworks at 215 E. Main St.
Even when I do find the occasion to enjoy one of Chattanooga’s best coffee shops/bakeries, it’s usually just for a quick cup of coffee or breakfast meeting. Instead of breakfast, I thought I’d get some lunch to-go and write about it for this column from the comfort of my desk. And I’m glad I visited when I did — they closed for the day due to outages just minutes after I left.
Niedlov’s was founded in 2002 and remains one of the city’s destination coffee shops. I remember several life-changing meetings that happened within those Main Street walls, including an initial interview back in 2011 with Nooga.com managing editor, Adam Green. I didn’t get the job I was applying for at the time (Chloé Morrison did) but that meeting planted the seed for my eventual hiring in 2013. I bet you might have a similar story about Niedlov’s. It’s so much more than a bakery; it’s a communal gathering spot for important meetings and relationships.
Even if you’ve never stepped a foot inside the actual bakery, you’ve probably had a Niedlov’s bread product. They provide buns and other baked goods to almost every restaurant in Chattanooga worth going to — Main Street Meats, Flying Squirrel, Pickle Barrel (yeah, it’s essential), St. John’s, River Street Deli, Tremont Tavern etc. Without Niedlov’s, Chattanooga would be lacking the delicious base for a bunch of great burgers and sandwiches.
The bakery was very busy when I walked in at about 1 p.m. on Monday afternoon.
When you walk into Niedlov’s you feel like you’re entering a country kitchen — the smells are incredible. I can’t see into the backroom bakery but I imagine pans of artisan loaves stacked high and people with rustic aprons around their waists and flour all over their faces. The interior hasn’t changed much over the years with the exception of an impressive outside awning, a few murals and the addition of a “hometown products” shelf. Local products like Hoff Sauce, honey and handmade ceramic mugs/cutting boards are available. I also appreciate the Niedlov’s T-shirts which are printed using Next Level Apparel. You want me to buy a shirt? Make sure it’s a Next Level shirt. I’m too old to be uncomfortable in Canvas or Hanes Beefy brand terrible shirts. I’ll wear almost anything printed on a Next Level shirt — especially if it’s a local business.
Niedlov’s is always busy. Guests place orders at the counter and food is either delivered to your table or, in my case, announced and picked it up at the counter. My favorite time to visit Niedlov’s is right at 7 a.m. before the morning rush. My usual is a white wheat blueberry muffin and a cup of piping hot, black-as-hell coffee. I like to take a book and sit in a corner seat if I have time. There really isn’t another place like Niedlov’s in Chattanooga for reading and munching.
Unfortunately, I had to get back to work in case the internet decided to come back. Breakfast is served until 11 a.m. and then the lunch menu kicks into action. The menu is fairly small compared to some restaurants, but remember that you’ll probably want to indulge in one of the scrummy (I learned that word from “The Great British Baking Show”) desserts in the display case. You can also have a salad and some soup.
But what does an artisan bakery best serve for lunch? Sandwiches. Lots of sandwiches on delicious Niedlov’s bread. You’ll find ingredients like avocado, chicken salad, goat cheese, shiitake mushrooms and favorites like the Caprese sandwich and the California Club. If you’re feeling frisky, order a classic Reuben on deli rye or pretend you’re at a New York deli and get a Lox bagel (one of my favorite foods of all-time).
I went with my gut — because that’s where the food was going — and ordered a prosciutto Panini. It contains Niedlov’s signature sourdough bread, crispy prosciutto, garlic aioli, roasted asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, Gruyere and arugula. The Barefoot Contessa couldn’t make a more appealing sandwich. They offer a “Pick Two” deal for $7.50, so I got a small cup of chicken/potato soup and half a sandwich.
As I waited (about 10-minutes) for my food, I remembered talking to my brother about how intoxicated he got at my wedding reception in March. I asked him what he drank that night and he responded with “prosciutto.” He said it was “bubbly and really sweet.” He meant to say prosecco, but now the two items are forever interchangeable in my mind.
Anyway, my food came out of the kitchen and I drove it back to work to eat at my desk. The soup was the first thing I tried. I expected a much heavier flavor, but I got a light, airy soup with delicious bits of seasoned chicken and creamy potatoes. If I had to eat a soup in the grim persistence of summer it would be this one. The sandwich was the perfect size for a small lunch. The prosciutto was thicker than I imagined with a noticeable crunch. My favorite sandwich — River Street Deli’s prosciutto, fig and arugula with brie — is much sweeter while this version, thanks to the garlic aioli, is more savory. Sundried tomatoes are an acquired taste, but I liked the tangy flavor they added to this sandwich. This quick to-go order satisfied my Niedlov’s craving for a few weeks, at least.
Would I go back?
Niedlov’s is like an old acquaintance. You might have visited their home once or twice, but more often than not you see them out on the town at various social functions and events. That’s Niedlov’s: it’s never far away because almost every restaurant uses their products, but a visit to the source is rare for me these days. But I’ll always recommend Niedlov’s as a great place for tourists to get a quick breakfast. And now that I know about the $7.50 “Pick Two” deal, I’ll start recommending Niedlov’s as a viable lunch spot, too.
The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.