published Friday, May 27th, 2011

Pub fare moving on up to oysters at Jefferson’s

IF YOU GO

What: Jefferson’s Wings, Burgers and Oysters.

Where: 618 Georgia Ave.

Phone: 710-1560.

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.

Price range: $4.95 for a two-hot-dog basket to $9.95 for a dozen Oysters Rockefeller.

Alcohol: Full bar.

For many area residents of a certain age, memories of the Brass Register downtown recall good times with friends.

Since the original restaurant closed in 1999, several establishments have tried to make a go of it in the Georgia Avenue location but, for various reasons, none lasted.

Early this year, Denise Crowell and Cyndi Roberts opened a Jefferson’s franchise in the space. Jefferson’s is a small chain of restaurants specializing in hamburgers, chicken wings and oysters founded in 1990 by a group of former Jacksonville State University students in Jacksonville, Ala.

The Chattanooga location is the 12th for the franchise, which is based primarily in smaller cities in Alabama and Georgia but also has locations in Illinois, Kansas and elsewhere in Tennessee.

The menu

As one would expect with a causal-dining restaurant, the menu is primarily sandwiches and items such as nachos, chicken fingers, wings and other standard pub fare.

Jefferson’s highlights hamburgers and wings as specialties but also makes its name on a limited seafood menu. Fresh oysters are brought in daily from the Gulf of Mexico and served in various ways, and peel-and-eat shrimp is another popular offering.

The restaurant offers several variations of hamburgers, all made with a half pound of beef. Other sandwiches include Philly cheesesteak, chicken sandwiches and an oyster po-boy.

Fried pickles are one of Jefferson’s more popular appetizers. Unlike other restaurants that use pickle spears in fried pickles, dill chips are used to make Jefferson’s version.

The menu is fairly large and includes a few entree platters of hamburger steak and chicken, and baskets are offered with fried shrimp, fried oysters, catfish and chicken fingers, to name a few.

Jefferson’s has a full bar and a wide selection of draft and bottled beers, as well as nonalcoholic beverages.

The order: Tuesday is seafood night, featuring 50-cent oysters and $5 platters of shrimp, so that combo was tough to pass up.

The oysters were on the small side, but they were fresh and well prepared and presented. After a half-dozen raw oysters, the house version of baked oysters was recommended. The baked oysters were topped with hot sauce, parmesan cheese and sliced jalapeno peppers and lightly baked. They were tasty with just enough of a spicy kick.

Also ordered was a serving of the “double-dipped” chicken wings. These are fried, tossed in Jefferson’s spiciest “Turbo” sauce, then returned to the fryer again before serving to make a crispy but spicy wing.

For dessert, the homemade peanut butter pie was a cool but fairly light way to end what was a full meal.

The Service

Manager Madison Routon recently moved to Chattanooga from Gadsden, Ala., which has a Jefferson’s franchise, so she was familiar with the restaurant and its offerings. She was friendly and helpful and was quick to offer suggestions on some of the restaurant’s best menu choices.

The staff appears to be primarily college-age students. That gives the restaurant a younger feel, which could help bring in a clientele that doesn’t remember the heyday of the Brass Register. All the servers seemed to be courteous and helpful.

Jefferson’s offers a selection of daily specials if you’re looking to save a little money. Mondays are $5 hamburgers, Tuesdays are seafood night and Wednesdays and Sundays are 50-cent wings.

The space

If you remember the Brass Register, you know the basic layout of Jefferson’s, although the old stage in the back has been removed, and the place has been updated where needed and given a fresh coat of paint. But it still has the cozy, lived-in feel that has always made this a comfortable space to have a bite to eat.

Several flat-screen televisions are placed throughout the restaurant for watching sports. Classic rock ’n’ roll is the music of choice.

One of the features of all Jefferson’s locations is the dollar bills on the walls, a tradition dating to the early days of the original location. Customers are encouraged to sign dollar bills to be placed on any open space on the walls. As this location is new, there remains plenty of open wall space for customers who want to display their decorated dollar bills. But the collage of cash is growing at the Chattanooga location in the few months it’s been open.

The verdict

If you’re looking for a fancy meal or a trendy hot spot, Jefferson’s probably isn’t for you. It’s basic bar food — with a few twists — in a comfortable location with good service. The fresh oysters certainly set it apart from many other restaurants of its type, and the wings are a good size and well prepared.

If you like a good basic meal while you visit with friends or watch sports, Jefferson’s is a great choice to get together for a good time.

about Jim Tanner...

Jim Tanner has worked as assistant sports editor at the Times Free Press since late 2006. He started at the Times Free Press in 2001 and worked as a news copy/design editor from 2001 through 2006. In addition to working as a night and weekend editor producing local and national sports coverage for print and online readers, Jim occasionally writes local sports and outdoors stories. Jim grew up in Ringgold, Ga., and is a graduate ...

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