Nestled between Nashville and Atlanta, Chattanooga, Tenn., sits along the Tennessee River at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, offering sweeping views of the Southern landscape. Along with its mountain overlooks, the Scenic City is also known for its world-ranked aquarium and the famous Chattanooga Choo Choo. But as the mid-sized city grows, it’s developing its reputation as a dining destination too, as pop-ups gain steam and new and diverse talent push the restaurant scene forward.
Whether you’re visiting for a mountain getaway, hitting up the Riverbend or Moon River music festivals, or making a quick stop on your way to another city, here’s where to eat and drink like a local in Chattanooga, from cool bars to brunch bites.
This unassuming coffee bar and roastery—which once delivered beans via bicycle (hence “velo,” the French word for bike)—is known for its precision. Every morning, staff “dial in” for the day, brewing and tasting each manually brewed coffee, espresso and batch-brewed coffee before adjusting settings like grind size and water temperature to find the most balanced flavor profile for that day. While Velo is known for its espresso, you can also get a killer drip or pour over coffee if you’re looking to explore the roaster’s other beans. Pair your morning mug with a pastry, which comes from nearby Bread & Butter bakery, and hang out on the patio.
This neighborhood spot in Riverview was once a 1920s cottage, giving it an intimate, moody atmosphere inside, while the garden patio is relaxed and breezy. The cocktails are playful and fresh, often incorporating agave spirits and rum, as well as fruit- and citrus-forward flavors. For those interested in natural wines, you can typically find sustainable producers on the list here too. As for food, the bar menu at Rosecomb skews seasonal and Southern, which means asparagus salad in the spring and fried okra in the summer. Stop by before dinner for drinks, a seasonal plate and the jazzy playlist.
Probably one of the more famous Chattanooga dining destinations, Champy’s gets a lot of attention for its fried chicken. But if I’m going there, I’m going for the wings. Get them smoked and tossed in the restaurant’s house-made buffalo sauce. It’s smoky, tangy, spicy—and crushes every time. If you visit the Scenic City in the early spring, order the seasonal crawfish for a spicy hint of New Orleans while you’re there. No matter what you get, just make sure the paper towel roll is close by.
Chef Khaled Albanna draws inspiration from his roots in Amman, Jordan, for his Levantine menu. This restaurant originally started in nearby Rossville, Ga., before relocating to the Proof Bar & Incubator space in Chattanooga this summer. The menu layers flavors in every dish using ingredients like tangy sumac, floral orange blossom, and nutty tahini. The wine list includes Lebanese and Portuguese wines alongside more traditional bottles too. Dishes are bright and fresh, so go for a hummus, an in-season vegetable dish and a seafood main. The branzino I recently ate was one of the best fish I’ve ever had.
Part butcher shop, part restaurant, Main Street Meats might just be the best restaurant in the city. It’s the place to go if you’re looking for a perfectly cooked steak, pork coppa or chicken. Menus change daily to reflect the cuts of meat and local produce available for the salads, starters and plates. The consistent stars on the menu are the seasonal salad, whatever pork plate is available and the burger, which may be the city’s best. For pescatarians, there’s usually a seasonal fish plate on the menu too. Grab a table on the parklet patio to get a front-row seat of Main Street, one of the more active areas where locals stroll for drinks and bites.
The morning line says it all at this family-owned bakery, which makes an assortment of pastries and sourdough bread every morning. From muffins and bagels to different kinds of cookies and croissants, there’s plenty to choose from at the 20-year-old local staple. For a light breakfast or mid-morning treat, order a butter croissant or seasonal scone. Niedlov’s also has breakfast and lunch menus with sandwiches, soups and salads if you want a more substantial meal to enjoy inside the cafe or on the patio. On your way out, grab a pastry for the road or a rosemary garlic loaf to take home.
In the neighboring city of Red Bank, Pizzeria Cortile is the local hangout for wood-fired pizzas. In the corner of the exposed kitchen sits an Acunto Mario oven that was built in Naples, Italy, by a third-generation oven builder. When it comes to the mainstays on the menu, simplicity shines with the bianca, pepperoni, and sausage and peppers pizzas ruling supreme. The specials are written on the chalkboards and often feature more seasonal ingredients and produce. If you’re venturing out here, bring a group and order the delightfully springy focaccia, a bottle of wine and a few pies to share.
This taqueria is truly a hidden gem in Chattanooga, serving up my favorite street tacos in the city. The family-owned business may be easy to miss, but it’s a vibrant lunch spot for the local Latin community. Though the taqueria has a handful of different menu items, nothing beats a trio of asada tacos for me. Tortillas are made from scratch and filled to the brim with juicy steak, grilled onions and a generous dusting of chopped cilantro. Don’t skip the habanero salsa either. It packs a huge punch but is worth the burn. Just wash it down with Jarritos from the cooler.
With a backlit bar and a disco ball overhead, this cocktail bar spins records and slings cocktails that are just as fun as the vibe. Think balanced riffs on classics like daiquiris, cosmos and manhattans. You’ll also find some novel drinks on the menu, and the bartenders are open to experimenting with different base spirits if you have a particular craving. This is a great place to grab a solo seat at the bar or score a booth with a crowd along the lush, plant-lined wall. If it’s late and you’re looking for a true Chattanooga experience, walk a couple blocks to JJ’s Bohemia, a grungy dive bar and punk rock venue, for a cheap PBR and live music.
While Syrup and Eggs is a popular brunch restaurant, you’ll want to try to get up early to beat the weekend crowds. Locals and visitors alike go here for its eclectic pancake options, which range from savory stacks like sourdough pancake grilled cheese to sweet, fruit-topped pancakes. You’ll also find breakfast sandwiches, quiches made with eggs from nearby Sequatchie Cove Farm, and brunch cocktails. Plus, there are gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options throughout the menu to accommodate different dietary restrictions.
To try Chattanooga’s competition-grade barbecue, venture east past Missionary Ridge to try some of Brandon Ellis’s smoked creations. Back in 2019, he took over the lease of a produce store on Shallowford Road and sells everything from BBQ nachos to smoked chicken from his smoker. The specialties here are the pulled pork, brisket and ribs, but the barbecue spot also serves BBQ street tacos, smoked wings and hot dogs. Order a combo plate to try a little bit of everything—and make sure you grab some of that smoked mac n cheese too.
Founded by the son of a third-generation candy maker back in 1999, Clumpies is the best dessert destination on a warm Chattanooga day. Though the shop has a core group of flavors available year-round, it also has featured scoops—including dairy-free options—that come and go seasonally. Clumpies also works with a handful of regional businesses to create a few of its flavors. It uses Huntsville’s Piper & Leaf tea in its orchard peach sorbet, for instance, and Chattanooga Whiskey in its whiskey caramel cornflake crunch ice cream.
Known for its specialty burgers, Tremont is the tavern in the city. Pull up a chair for bar food and beers—and whatever sports games are airing across the tavern’s TVs. The service is warm, and you always feel like you’re part of the North Chattanooga neighborhood crowd. There are over 100 beers on the menu and a couple dozen on draft, though some rotate. To kick things off, get the saucy buffalo cauliflower or edamole dip. When it comes to burgers and sandwiches, the jalapeño jack burger and the chicky goats gruff (a grilled chicken sandwich with roasted red pepper goat cheese) never disappoint. The tavern also features a burger and sandwich of the month, so don’t forget to take a peek at the chalkboard for specials.
Founded in 2015, this brewery is named after the “fathers of modern geology,” James Hutton and William “Strata” Smith. All in all, the brewery’s beers are approachable, easy drinkers. Year round, you can find a number of pale ales and a nitro beer on tap, but you can also catch a few seasonal options as well as limited release barrel-aged sours. The taproom hosts food trucks on the regular, too, along with comedy and chess nights on certain days of the week. If you’re into citrusy, juicy IPAs, try the Promenade.
A self-described “DIY bar,” Boneyard’s interior came together from found objects like old school bus seats and park lights that were repurposed into decor. It has a rock ‘n’ roll vibe with a multicolor glow inside, an energetic back patio and cheeky alien artwork by local artist Sarah Hedrick to seal in the playful yet cool atmosphere. The bar here serves beer, wine and classic cocktails like paper planes, G&Ts and whiskey highballs. You can also get a taste of the Chattanooga pop-up scene at Boneyard, which regularly hosts pop-up chefs from its food truck on the patio. Check the bar’s Instagram account for the latest schedule of chef takeovers and special events like live music and dance parties.
Kris Martins is an Atlanta-based journalist exploring the intersection of the restaurant industry and food culture. Her work has appeared in Eater Atlanta, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta Magazine and MyRecipes. When she’s not writing, she’s visiting a farmers market, sharing a fun bottle of wine or cooking a new recipe. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter.