published Friday, February 18th, 2011

The Honest Pint offers big ambiance


by Adam Crisp

The Honest Pint arrived in Chattanooga just a few months before St. Patrick's Day, but it's right on time for diners who want something more than standard bar food.

With an Irish-themed menu, the restaurant brings tons of character and live music offerings to a historic building that most recently housed Parkway Billiards. It already has drawn big crowds and a regular following.

The Patten Parkway anchor is the latest creation from the guys who developed the restaurants Terminal Brewhouse and Hair of the Dog. It deserves high marks for its ambiance and creative menu.

THE MENU

IF YOU GO

* Where: The Honest Pint, 35 Patten Parkway.

* Phone: 468-4192.

* Hours: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. seven days a week.

* Price range: $4 for Paddy's Potato Pancakes to $13 for The Picnic (deviled eggs, mixed sausages, cheese and crackers).

* Alcohol: Full bar.

* Smoking: Yes in the bar; separate non-smoking area.

The Honest Pint has a huge menu with authentic Irish dishes with big twists.

For appetizers, the servers talk up the Pomme Tots ($5), which are traditional tater tots fried in duck fat and served with four tasty dipping sauces. I had these on a previous visit, and I must say the duck fat and sauces make this item totally different than any other tot I've tried.

As for entrees, the restaurant changes up staid Irish dishes such as fish and chips ($10) by making palm-size cakes of salmon, cream cheese and dill, then breading and deep-frying them. The Hearder Pie ($8 and $13, depending on size) is a reimagined version of shepherd's pie. The cooks replace beef with lamb and add a mustard and red wine stew.

Real strengths are found in the restaurant's beer and whiskey offerings. There are 10 or more beers on draft and six Irish whiskeys in the well, with no fewer than 30 imported canned and bottled beers. Bartenders mix dark coffee and Guinness and have several of those pairings on the menu.

The order (for one): The Bonny Scot, a hard-boiled and fried egg dish ($6), was my appetizer. I also dined on a wedge salad and a Reuben sandwich.

The real strength in this outing is the appetizer. The eggs are wrapped in sausage, breaded, then fried and served with a tangy ale mustard dipping sauce. It has a pleasant, unique texture, though the ground sausage isn't as distinct as I imagined.

The wedge salad ($4.25) is also a strong addition. The lettuce was crisp and cold. The ranch dressing appears to be homemade, and the chef was not stingy with a generous helping of blue cheese and sweet grape tomatoes.

My Reuben sandwich ($7.50) came strongly recommended, but it was just so-so.

The Rube, as the menu calls it, is not greasy, which is sometimes the case with Reubens at other restaurants. The helping of corned beef is generous, but the red-cabbage sauerkraut is barely noticeable, and the dressing is not a strong player. All and all, it's not the worst Reuben I've had, but I was let down after all the buildup.

The homemade chips on the side are good. I found them to be really crispy, not overseasoned, and they came in a big, heaping portion.

THE SERVICE

My server said she was new, but I couldn't tell. I plopped down just at the start of a busy dinner hour. My glass stayed full, and the food came out quickly, though my salad arrived at the same time as my entree, which is always a bummer.

THE SPACE

Inside the old Parkway Billiards hall, the Honest Pint has one of the coolest buildings in town.

The main dining room is two stories with large chandeliers, wood paneling and a big bar area. There's room for live music, which is more common on the weekends.

Expect big crowds of UTC students on Friday and Saturday nights, but dining before 8 p.m. should cut down on the huge crowds.

Smoking is allowed in the bar area, and like most other smoking venues in Chattanooga, the air gets thick pretty quickly. On this visit, I dined in the no-smoking area, which is separated by doors and floor-to-ceiling walls. There was no hint of smoke in this area during my visit.

Because it allows smoking, The Honest Pint only allows patrons 21 and older.

THE VERDICT

I give the restaurant a thumbs-up, but honestly, I wish the menu items had just the slightest more punch.

Go for the ambiance, enjoy the beer, whiskey and live music, and try a menu that truly offers some unique dishes that are hard to find anywhere else in town.

about Adam Crisp...

Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...

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