If you’re looking for a new experience this summer, Chattanooga’s unique laid back vibe is the perfect atmosphere to explore. The entire city is encompassed by its eccentricity. Glass triangular structures mixed with old antique buildings and quaint stores at the end of graffiti brick alleys all melt together to form this laid back town. After being treated to a guided tour of the area by three charming locals I picked up a few must see spots for y’all (and also some southern slang! No? Ok that’s fair.) Check out my recommendations below!
Bitter Alibi –if you have a hankering for a unique brunch experience, Bitter Alibi is your first stop. Located in a rustic building on Houston Street, this place is interesting
from head to toe. The inside is nothing short of quirky with spiral staircases and a bathroom pulley system that is just plain fun.
The bottom floor is underground but intimate. In the words of one of my local boys, “everything contradicts in a pleasant way.” Business cards scatter the ceiling and stained glass, Christmas bulbs, and dollar bills painted into the wood complete the look. If the aesthetics don’t send you running there the food definitely will. Everything on the menu is amazing (in this Pearl’s opinion, get the Tiramisu French toast. Trust me, you’ll lose your mind) and the cocktail list is excellent. Our group favorite was definitely the Wake n Bacon: Whiskey. OJ. Honey. Maple Syrup. Bacon. You just don’t get better than that.
Rembrandt’s Cafe – Looking for lighter fare? Head to Rembrandt’s café. It may seem plain on the inside but the staff is beyond friendly and the pastries are worth the trip! Outside is peaceful and charming with such a consistent melody of birds it sounds like a soundtrack. You’ll find this gem on High Street in the Bluff View Art District.
While in the area, make sure to check out the River Gallery Sculpture Garden: Beautiful and thought provoking works of art peppered throughout a well-tended garden and overlooking a beautiful view of the Tennessee River. But back to the more important things in life: breakfast.
If those two choices don’t float your boat, our honorary mention is the Bluegrass Grill (locals say there is always a line out the door so you know it’s good.)
Velo Coffee Roasters – Let’s talk Velo Coffee Roasters! This is an experience you don’t want to miss. Located on Main Street, the shop is understated and almost hidden. It’s just a cool place to visit.
The shop is basically a science lab for coffee with early Saturday morning “coffee cuppings” and nitrogen infused beverages. And with a name like velo (Fun fact, that’s the French word for bicycle! The more you know…) it’s not at all surprising to see several of them hanging from the walls. We headed there early Saturday morning for the full cupping experience. Initially the thought of participating in a coffee cupping felt a little too hipster for this Pearl’s liking. But my fears were allayed once we began. The atmosphere is relaxed and it’s clear right away the staff is focused on a quality experience.
The process is quite simple. Several cups are lined up on the bar for the participants to investigate. Three cups are set out from each roast to better determine inconsistencies in the beans and to make sure you get an even taste of the coffee all the way through. The Participants get to analyze and take in the aroma of the grounds before and after water is added. Then comes the “break”: a release of scent using a spoon to disturb the grounds. Once the grounds are removed the participants can then taste the coffee with a “vigorous slurp.” It was surprising and enlightening to see the various nuances in each cup. It was a truly fun process completely devoid of coffee snobbery.
If coffee cupping isn’t your thang, head over to their coffee bar and have a unique coffee experience. Their Bunny Hop is slightly carbonated and fully delicious but in this Pearl’s opinion you have to try the Shrubbery. It mixed cold brew coffee with soda, balsamic, and a sprig of rosemary. It’s heaven in a glass.
Chattanooga Whiskey – Towards the end of our day we found ourselves at the Tennessee Still house. One tour and tasting later had me completely in love. Their story is endearing (changing laws to bring Whiskey back to Chattanooga) their staff is inspiringly dedicated, and their Whiskey is goooood. I highly recommend taking the tour. The staff knows their whiskey and they are up front about their process. They talk about outsourcing their product to Indiana and the backlash they received. How it started a controversy that launched a much needed conversation. This seeming roadblock eventually led to who they are today and they’re not shy about admitting they are still figuring out who that is. The tour takes you through their entire process, from the cooker (they’ll let you sample, its fun!) to the barrel room, all the way back to the bar. The tasting includes several whiskey samplings and two delicious cocktails. The Pearl recommends their 1816 Cask. Lots of Oak and Spice!
A World Outside of Food
We all know the Pearl could happily wander from food establishment to food establishment and feel perfectly at peace but there is more to do in Chatt than eat.
Chattanooga Choo Choo – When leaving the Tennessee Still House, you’ll find yourself right in front of the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo. Railroad station turned hotel, this landmark holds several restaurants and onsite entertainment. Next door you’ll find The Terminal, historic hotel turned Brewhouse.
Walnut Street Bridge – the world’s longest pedestrian bridge, it provides a beautiful stroll as long as you keep a wary eye for passing bicyclists who may or may not try and run you over (you know who you are.)
Chattanooga Aquarium – while we didn’t get a chance to stop here, Chattanooga boasts the largest fresh water aquarium and it is hailed as a must see. The perfect stop if the weather is inclement or if you just HAVE to see some sea otters.
Warehouse Row – Steeped in history as an old stone fort during the civil war, the buildings making up this district have transformed into a fun shopping experience. The buildings contain several salons and spas, well known retail shops (there’s an Anthropologie here ladies) and smaller distinctive storefronts. There are also some fantastic eating establishments (come on now you knew I couldn’t stay away from food for too long!) Tupelo Honey Café has some great southern style food but Two Jack Ten Ramen is where it’s at! Delicious Ramen bowls, trendy atmosphere and a sparkling sake that will knock your socks off.
There’s so much more to do and see in Chattanooga. Whether you’re wandering into Tangerina’s to check out some completely recycled art, drifting through Winder Binder and playing with the cutest bookstore dog ever, or stopping in the park to ride the merry-go-round, in this Pearl’s opinion Chattanooga is simple an unforgettable experience.