published Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Downtown Bleacher Bums offers tasty food, speedy service

When going out for dinner, I prefer a restaurant where my husband and I can sit down and enjoy a delicious meal at a leisurely pace.

Lunch is a different matter. If I go out, which is rare these days, I want to be back at work in less than an hour, but that’s easier said than done.

Instead, I either bring my lunch from home, call out for a delivery or pick up a salad or sandwich and bring it back to work to eat. One of my favorite places to grab a quick takeout lunch is Bleacher Bums on Cherry Street. It’s a tiny space at the end of the stage at Miller Plaza.

I was bummed, though, to learn last December that the restaurant had sold, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out the new owners, Jay and Young Kwak, planned on keeping the same menu and adding to it.

Not only is the food excellent, I can walk out of my office and be back within 15 to 20 minutes.

THE MENU

IF YOU GO

Where: Bleacher Bums, 850 Market St. (next to Miller Plaza).

Phone: 634-1083.

Hours: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Price range: $5 for a chef salad to $5.50 for a chicken salad sandwich to the most costly item on the menu, $6.75 for a Reuben (including a side).

I’m a fan of chicken salad, and it’s typically what I’ll order the first time I visit a restaurant for lunch. But I’m also picky. There’s a 50-50 chance I will actually like the way it’s prepared. Bleacher Bums’ chicken salad sandwich ($5.25) is one of my favorite restaurant-made sandwiches. The chicken is tender, fresh and flavorful, and they add celery, pecans and grapes — my absolute favorite ingredients in chicken salad.

It’s served on your choice of bread (I always get wheat) with lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise and whatever else you like. And, very importantly, it’s made fresh every morning.

A creature of habit, I routinely order two sides of the restaurant’s homemade broccoli slaw. Because the side is served in a very small container, I order two. I could easily eat three. It’s that good.

The restaurant offers typical deli fare ranging from sandwiches and wraps to hot dogs, burgers, salads, chili, barbecue and several baked-potato options, including chili cheese potato and barbecue stuffed potato. Side orders offered are chips, baked beans, coleslaw, deviled eggs, fruit cups and the broccoli slaw (79 cents to $1.29).

Last December, when the Kwaks bought the restaurant, they brought along their menu from J’s Deli, the restaurant they owned just down the street from Bleacher Bums.

Now they’re serving more sandwiches ($4.35-$6.75), including Reubens, clubs, grilled cheese and BLTs. There are also hamburgers, soup, nachos, grilled chicken, chicken quesadilla, Philly cheesesteak, a turkey-bacon wrap and a couple of specialty sandwiches: Glorious Day, which has ham, turkey, egg, bacon, avocado and tomato, and J’s Choice, a stack of roast beef, ham, Swiss cheese and hot sauce.

Each item on the menu is made on the premises, mostly by Young Kwak.

Typical soft drinks and tea are offered. I get the large (and it’s huge) unsweetened tea with fresh lemon slices.

Dessert is simple, and tasty: fresh homemade fudge brownies.

THE SERVICE

No matter how long the line is, it has never taken more than 10 minutes for me to order and walk out the door. They are completely efficient.

Jay Kwak (everyone calls him by his first name) takes your order, you pay, get your own drink, and, in my experience, the food is handed to you within minutes.

THE SPACE

It’s all about efficiency. You basically walk in, get your food, get your drink and leave. There are a couple of tables for folks wanting to sit down and eat, but I’ve rarely seen anyone eating there. It’s just too small. But the convenient location next to Miller Plaza, where benches are plentiful, makes it ideal for folks who enjoy dining outside.

THE VERDICT

Jay Kwak said Bleacher Bums has been around for about nine years. I have been eating their food for the last five years, and I have never been disappointed.

After perusing the menu in more depth for this article, I’m going to branch out and try more items. When you stand in line and listen to everyone’s order, it’s evident that the entire menu is popular.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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