published Thursday, December 27th, 2012

New British-style tavern offers good food, fun atmosphere

On the menu at the new Chattanooga Street Tavern in LaFayette, Ga., is this traditional shepherd’s pie, front, with a side of sticky carrots with ginger.
On the menu at the new Chattanooga Street Tavern in LaFayette, Ga., is this traditional shepherd’s pie, front, with a side of sticky carrots with ginger.
Photo by Tim Omarzu.
IF YOU GO

* Where: Chattanooga Street Tavern, 123 N. Chattanooga St., LaFayette, Ga.

* Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-midnight Thursday-Saturday. (The tavern sometimes closes early on Thursday if business is light.)

* Price range: $8 (Hawaiian chicken sliders) to $13 (shepherd's pie).

* Directions: From Chattanooga, take U.S. 27 to LaFayette's historic square. Turn right on West Villanow Street. Dead-end at the Mars Theater District. Turn right at the stop sign and make an immediate left into the pub's parking lot.

* Information: 706-620-2178 or www.facebook.com.ChattanoogaStreetTavern

Crunchy on the outside, tasty on the inside.

That sums up a meal of fish and chips with a side of fried cheddar bites at the new Chattanooga Street Tavern in LaFayette, Ga.

Word around town is the pub's fish and chips are "to die for" and they lived up to the billing. Instead of being greasy with gooey batter, these fish and chips would satisfy Goldilocks. They're just right.

Overall, the pub's food is more ambitious than typical bar fare. That makes sense, because the Chattanooga Street Tavern has audacious roots.

Its owner, LaFayette native Michael Lovelady, got into the restaurant business pretty much by accident about a year ago when he opened One-Eleven in what once was a hardware store on LaFayette's historic square.

Lovelady bought the One-Eleven building, planning to use it as office space, but he decided it was too nice for that. So he plunged in and opened his first restaurant instead.

The Chattanooga Street Tavern is his second.

It's the anchor business in what Lovelady has dubbed the "Mars Theater District." Until recently, it was a blighted, vacant strip of commercial buildings on Chattanooga and Villanow streets anchored by the old Mars Theater, which was gutted by fire.

Lovelady has restored the entire strip and is leasing the other spaces. A vintage furniture store recently opened next to the tavern.

THE MENU

The menu features five starters, ranging from fried cheddar bits ($5) to a dozen raw oysters on the half shell ($13), which Lovelady says are a big hit, tying fish and chips as the most popular menu items.

"I can't believe how many oysters go through this place," he says.

Entrees start at $8 for Hawaiian chicken sliders, which consist of grilled chicken topped with grilled pineapple slices, lettuce, tomato and onion.

An order of fish and chips costs $10. Each piece of Atlantic cod is hand-dipped in beer batter and served with seasoned fries and "Georgia mountain tartar sauce."

The traditional shepherd's pie is the pub's priciest item at $13, but the portion is hefty. This tasty dish consists of ground lamb mixed with peas and carrot slices topped with mashed russet potatoes.

Though shepherd's pie is a meal in itself, I ordered a $3 side of sticky carrots and ginger. The combination was too ample to finish; it called for a to-go box.

Lovelady's executive chef at One-Eleven, Nick Thiers, also is the kitchen manager for Chattanooga Street Tavern.

Beer is almost entirely domestic, starting at $2.75 for drafts such as Yuengling and Bud Light. Draft Fat Tire and Blue Moon cost $3.25, as does bottled Newcastle and Sam Adams. A 64-ounce pitcher runs $10. Beer drinkers can ask their server about beer specials.

THE SERVICE

Service was prompt, attentive and unobtrusive on a busy weeknight at the bar. Getting food to the table took a little longer around 1 p.m. on a chilly, gray weekday when diners were sparse.

Both times, the servers were friendly, engaging and, well, fun.

One of the coolest things about the British-themed tavern is that all the wait staff wear kilts, tam o'shanter caps and related gear. The pub borrowed the idea from a restaurant in Atlanta and the clothes lend a festive air to the dining experience.

By chance, bartender Jared Thompson just happens to know how to play the bagpipes, so he'll play them when he's not too busy. "Amazing Grace" is a popular request, he says.

THE SPACE

The restored building has a funky feel with high ceilings and exposed-brick walls that sport flags from the British Isles as well as high-definition TVs that are ubiquitous these days.

Diners have a choice between booths, tables and the bar.

A couple of pool tables are tucked away in a room off the main space, and an outdoor patio with a fireplace is open when the weather's not too cold.

Parking is located behind the restaurant.

THE VERDICT

Kudos to Lovelady for having the chutzpah to dive in and open not just one but two restaurants in his hometown while restoring historic buildings.

You can have a great meal and a good time at the Chattanooga Street Tavern and support a homegrown effort to revitalize LaFayette.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

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