* Where: The 3rd Deck Burger Bar at Pier 2, 201 Riverfront Parkway.
* Phone: 423-266-4488.
* Website: www.chattanooga riverboat.com/3rd-deck-burger-bar.
* Hours: 11 a.m.- 11 p.m. daily.
* Price range: $3 (desserts) to $14 (ribeye steak or seven-piece shrimp meals). Burgers are $9 with fries.
* Alcohol: Full bar.
The Southern Belle riverboat is seen by many as a tourist destination, a place to take out-of-town guests or perhaps take that yearly trip into the Tennessee River Gorge to see the changing leaves each fall.
But not many Chattanooga residents think of Pier 2 (home of the Southern Belle) as a downtown lunch spot or a place to enjoy spending time on the river. Perhaps that should change.
The 3rd Deck Burger Bar is open daily on the top floor of Pier 2, offering reasonably priced food in a comfortable atmosphere with as close a view of the river as you can get in Chattanooga.
The same staff that prepares food for the Southern Belle and special events at Pier 2 is serving up good sandwiches and drinks that are worth the visit.
With views of the waterfront and a comfortable and inviting deck and bar area, it could be worth a trip under the Olgiati Bridge to try what is advertised as "The Best Burgers in Town."
The name of the place says it all. The 3rd Deck Burger Bar specializes in the hamburger -- specifically a half-pound of black Angus beef prepared to order with various toppings. Grilled chicken or a garden burger can be substituted as well.
In addition to the burgers, traditional bar food is available, such as wings, nachos and sliders, and a ribeye steak and a shrimp plate on the menu.
The fully stocked bar can provide whatever you might want to drink, and the more-than-generous happy hour runs from 2 to 7 p.m. with special drink pricing.
On Sundays from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., a brunch menu of skillet plates is available.
The restaurant takes up the entire top deck of Pier 2 with lots of inside and outside seating.
The view from the deck looks upriver at the Market Street Bridge, the Tennessee Aquarium and across the Tennessee River to Coolidge and Renaissance parks.
When in dock, diners can watch as the Southern Belle arrives and departs for excursions on the river.
Inside, the 3rd Deck Burger Bar may be downtown's hidden sports bar. The large area is filled with overstuffed sofas and plenty of big-screen televisions to watch the big game. There are also dart boards and Foosball for challenging your competitive side. Poker is played every Monday night.
When you go to a joint called the Burger Bar, you know what you should order -- and it certainly isn't the soup and salad.
With a half-pound of beef, the hamburger is plenty of food if you're hungry, and it comes with fries. I went with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and banana peppers. My lunch was delivered quickly, all the ingredients were fresh and the hamburger was just right -- hot and juicy and not overcooked.
A late lunch on a Thursday was quiet at the 3rd Deck Burger Bar, but my server said that weekends are busier as customers come in to watch sports and Southern Belle customers stop in after their trips downriver.
Since the restaurant uses the same staff and kitchen that cooks for wedding receptions, riverboat trips and other occasions, the food is done well and the service was certainly up to par.
Hamburgers are the all-American food, and many restaurants in Chattanooga pride themselves on making the better burger.
The 3rd Deck Burger Bar fits into that scene quite well with good food, a pleasant dining environment and one of the nicer waterfront views downtown. The service was good, and a return visit for lunch or socializing after work will be something I look forward to soon.
Is it the "best burger in town" as advertised? I'm not going to insert myself into that battle, but it was certainly a well-cooked burger worth having again.
Contact Jim Tanner at email@example.com or 423-757-6478.
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 ...