published Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Braly: Side Orders - Readers share culinary favorites

A while back in this space, I lamented that food website The Daily Meal's latest list of best restaurants in the nation contained none from Chattanooga. I asked readers to tell me which you would nominate.

Here's what you had to say.

* The Yellow Deli, 737 McCallie Ave. Jane Elmore said she loves the music and the laid-back atmosphere at The Yellow Deli and likes the chili, the yogurt and fruit, and especially the green salad. Her daughter, she said, loves their unique sandwiches that you can't buy anywhere else.

* Niko's Southside Grill, 1400 Cowart St. Virginia Foley said the eggplant Parmesan is her favorite dish, and strawberry cake is her favorite dessert. The food, service and ambiance are wonderful, and prices are reasonable, she added.

* The Meeting Place, 1278 Market St. Karen Chastain said this restaurant is the best in town, hands down. "My favorite dish is their Duck Confit and has been for some time. Also, their patés and other new and innovative 'small plates' are wonderful."

* Porter's Steakhouse, 827 Broad St. "While I attend many of the restaurants downtown, one in particular stands out," said another reader. "Porter's Steakhouse has always taken care of my family and me. I went there for my graduation from college, I've taken dates there, and anytime I need a nice steak this is the place I go. I am a big fan of the Porterhouse steak, but in a pinch I'll take a regular New York strip. It has become my favorite restaurant in the city."

* Urban Stack Burger Lounge, 12 W. 13th St. "This place actually opened a couple of years after I moved, but I love going here every time I make a trip home," said Jonathan Cook. "What's not to love? Burgers, fries, great locale in the "Deep Ellum" of Chattanooga. All local ingredients and regional recognition galore. It's one of the top five places I would take out-of-towners if I can get some of my Dallas peeps to come home with me for a visit."

* Blue Ribbon Cafe, 9705 Dayton Pike. Mary Beth Kennedy said she wishes she could drive to Soddy-Daisy every week from her home in East Brainerd, particularly on Wednesdays when Blue Ribbon's homemade chicken and dumplings always are served. They're the best in the South, she said.

* Mount Vernon, 3535 Broad St. "Grouper with lemon sauce is mighty close to the top," wrote Wesley Dobbs. "They also have "light" offerings/cold plates with chicken salad, fruit and the like that is really good. Their Sweet Celery dressing is just great on a chef's salad, too."

* Alleia, 25 E. Main St. "It has the most-unique atmosphere and scrumptious food in the city," said Lena Calhoun. "My favorite dish is one that's seasonal -- acorn squash ravioli. And I love any of their pizza choices."

* The Blue Plate, 191 Chestnut St. Ronald Whitten never thought a fish taco could be so good. "This place is known for its Southern food, so fish tacos seemed a little bit off the menu, but I'm telling you, the fish tacos are excellent, and that's what makes this place such a good place to take folks. There's something for all tastes," he said.

* Petunia's Silver Jalapeno, 309 Signal Mountain Road. Mattie Hawkins thinks this charming restaurant, located in an Airstream trailer, serves the best pork butt in town. "But if you're like me, and you like a bite of beans and slaw with every bite, then you gotta order the pork and bean bowl. It's all in there together, topped with a homemade corn cake for good measure. What a marvel of Southern cuisine." (Satellite location inside Warehouse Row, 1110 Market St.).

n Nikki's Drive Inn, 899 Cherokee Blvd. "If you don't go for the onion rings alone, be sure to order them with the fried shrimp or one of the burgers," said Anthony Thompson. "This place is a gem, unknown to many tourists, at least till now!"

* Boccaccia, 3077 Broad St. "My favorite is the lasagna -- best I have ever eaten," said Barry Cammon. "My wife Tonya's favorite is the Cappellini Del Sud."

* Canyon Grill, Scenic Highway 189 at Highway 136. "My vote is for Canyon Grill. I love the trout amandine," said Lisa Shivers of this restaurant atop Lookout Mountain.

* St. John's Restaurant, 1278 Market St. "(Chef) Daniel (Lindley) is good at every kind of dish he creates, but his game meats are always memorable -- perfectly prepared with perfectly chosen accompaniments," said Frances Heller Graef. "And his soups are so good, he almost redefines the genre; I'll never forget his BLT soup from a couple of summers ago."

* The Biscuit Barn, 1391 LaFayette Road. "A friend and I eat there about twice a week, and I've never had a bad meal or bad experience there," said Earl Edwards of this Fort Oglethorpe favorite. "Great place, great people." The chicken potpie, served every Thursday, is his favorite dish, he said.

* Easy Bistro & Bar, 203 Broad St. "The culinary creations and unique flavor combinations make this my favorite restaurant in Chattanooga," said Carly Boehm, who moved from San Diego two years ago and said she and her husband are "thoroughly impressed with Chattanooga's restaurant quality and options."

So there you go ... the best restaurants in town, as decided by a sampling of Times Free Press readers.

If it were still open, I'm sure the Town and Country would be included in today's list of favorite restaurants. I still get emails from readers asking if I can find a recipe for a dish once served at the beloved North Shore eatery.

My latest request came from an anonymous reader, who misses the blue cheese dressing. "It was the best I've ever had," she said.

Fortunately, before Town and Country closed in 2005, a small cookbook of its best recipes was published, and I was lucky enough to grab one up. Let me know if there's a recipe you want, and I'll see if it's in the cookbook.

Here's the recipe for the blue cheese dressing. There's no better time to enjoy it, with the best of the summer's produce arriving. I'd recommend a big salad tossed with cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and peppers of all sorts. Just throw it all together, give it a toss, and you're ready for a big bite of summer.

Town and Country Blue Cheese Dressing

4 cups mayonnaise

Dash Tabasco sauce, or to taste

3/4 tablespoon very finely chopped onion

1-1 1/2 teaspoons white pepper

1-1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt

1/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup vinegar

6 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

Combine all ingredients except blue cheese, and blend well. Stir in blue cheese. Makes about 1 1/2 quarts. Store, covered, in refrigerator.

Finally, be sure to be at Chattanooga Market at First Tennessee Pavilion this Sunday for the annual FiveStar Food Fight, which will put five chefs to the test. Chefs participating in this year's competition are Aaron Long (Market Street Tavern), David Flint (Famous Nater's), Matt Marcus (Hennen's), Matt Pinner (Broad Street Grille) and Nick Goeller (212 Market).

The action will be at its most intense from 1:30 to 3 p.m. I'll be there judging and hope to see you there.

Email Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com.

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