published Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Main Street Meats’ burger may be the one to beat

IF YOU GO

Where: Main Street Meats, 217 E. Main St., Chattanooga.

Phone: 423-602-9568.

Hours: Lunch served 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Saturday (shop hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday).

Prices: Vary according to the day’s lineup, but most dishes range from $7 to $9. Daily menus are posted on the business’ Facebook page.

Main Street Meats on Chattanooga’s Southside has only been open since October, but this meat market and specialty food store is already making a name for itself as a lunch spot.

My wife suggested I try it out after she and a co-worker hit it up a few weeks back.

On my visit last week, Danny Key, one of the three owners, took my order as soon as I walked in. Another member of the staff offered me a sample of the mortadella — a house-made Italian bologna sausage — to try while I waited.

There are only a few seats at the small lunch counter that looks out onto East Main Street. I spied a stool that said “sit” on it, so I did.

All the products and foods are local and prepared in-house. Breads are from Niedlov’s, the bakery next door.

Main Street buys its meats from local farms as whole animals and processes them on the premises. None of the animals the place uses have been fed antibiotics or growth stimulants.

THE MENU

The menu varies daily. Last Wednesday’s menu included the Bobo, a smoked beef brisket pastrami on rye bread with a house pickle and mustard ($8); the smoked Marvin, a smoked meatloaf sandwich with pickle and mustard ($7); Finn hoagie with Finn sausage, red sauce, caramelized onions and peppers, mozzarella ($7); the Ferdinand, with skillet-fried mortadella and black-pepper mayo ($7); and Brunswick stew made with chicken ($3.50).

On other days, there’s the Little Italy, which comes with house-cured pepperoni, Finn sausage, red sauce and mozzarella on a hoagie bun ($8); the Anthony, a house-smoked, all-beef wiener with house relish, mustard and onions ($7); and the Ossobuco hoagie made of beef shank with marrow gravy, fried onions and whole-grain mustard ($9). There are also several other offerings according to season and availability.

THE ORDER

I’d heard the house burger ($9) is a staple on the daily-changing menu, so that’s what I had. It’s made of grass-fed ground beef combined with house-cured bacon, gruyére cheese, mayonnaise, house brown mustard, a slice of dill pickle on a bun.

I grabbed a beverage from the cooler and a bag of chips from a basket by the cash register while I munched on my sample of mortadella. Beverage selections include several varieties of sodas, beer and Mexican-made Coca-Colas that contain pure cane sugar rather than corn syrup.

I had a Coke ($2) and some sea salt chips ($1) to go with my burger.

THE SERVICE

The service was speedy, and I paid at the cash register before taking my seat on the “sit” stool. Since I was the first one through the door when they started serving lunch at 11 a.m., I had the staff to myself and enjoyed hearing Key talk about the philosophy behind Main Street Meats’ resources while the cook whipped up the burger.

THE SPACE

The building is an old storefront shop, remodeled with the original brick walls exposed and a nice tile floor. The lunch counter is a wooden slab about 12 feet long fronted by a handful of stools with a view of the new Chattanooga Fire Station No. 1 across the street and a sculpture standing on the butcher shop’s side of the street.

THE VERDICT

Main Street Meats is not cheap, and one taste will tell you why. After a bite or two, you’ll realize the price is more than reasonable for the quality local ingredients you’re getting.

My wife praises the pulled-pork barbecue, made of smoked pork shoulder, with pink cider slaw, house sauce, pickle and mustard. It’s often listed on Friday’s menu and is dubbed “lipstick on a pig” ($8). I’ll be back to try the barbecue soon.

The house burger is so good you’ll cuss, and you’ll probably talk about it the rest of the day. Key boasted during his monologue on the establishment that the burger is gaining a reputation as one of the best in the city. I’d have to agree. I’ve had most of the best offered, and Main Street’s is a major contender if not a hands-down beater.

Oh, and they sell meat and stuff, too.

Contact Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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