Do you ever feel like you sort of have a relationship with a restaurant? Like.. you just go there so much, and enjoy the experience so much, that something about it is kind of personal. Well, Tupelo Honey Cafe and I had a brief, but exciting, fling in Asheville a few years back, where dinner was so enjoyable that I came back for breakfast first-thing the next morning. Both meals were fantastic and Tupelo was easily one of the biggest highlights of the whole trip. This, among other things, made me wish that Chattanooga could be a bit more like Asheville.
There have been many developments in the past few years that have me thinking we’re gettin’ there, but I was particularly ecstatic when the announcement was made in April that Tupelo would be coming to Chattanooga.
Now, it’s finally here, and I cannot wait to work my way ’round the whole dang menu, but I thought I’d go ahead and share my excitement following my first few visits..
My first trip, I had breakfast for dinner. I love breakfast and, in Tupelo, love that Chattanooga now has a place that serves delicious breakfast all the live-long day. At the beginning of the meal, you’re brought a big ol’ biscuit with some blueberry jam and Tupelo honey. You know the way to my heart, Tupelo. Delicious freebies? Yes, please. I could kick back and have nothing but this and a beverage and be set.
BUT WHERE’S THE FUN IN THAT?!
I ordered the fried chicken and biscuits. While I waited on that, I got a flight of four different five-ounce pours of Carolina beers for just $6. I’m a sucker for sampler-style things like that. I prefer to have a little bit of everything over committing to one thing, but all four beers were pretty dern tasty, so it’s totally a win-win.
Then, the chicken and biscuits. A few more of those big ol’ biscuits, slathered in milk gravy, topped with hormone-free buttermilk fried chicken. And a side of maple peppered bacon for good measure/in honor of Ron Swanson. I couldn’t pick favorites here. It was all good. The biscuits are soft and warm and awesome. The flavor of the bacon was everything I loved about dipping my bacon in syrup as a child (I say as if I don’t still do that – HA). The gravy had a good fresh flavor to it. That’s hard to describe, but it’s easy enough to totally botch gravy. This was nice and creamy, but not too heavy. The chicken was the star, as well it should be. The buttermilk bath left it SUPER tender and juicy. On another breakfast note, the sweet potato pancakes are awesome too and I haven’t had those in years now, so that’s on my list. I also had some banana pudding to-go for dessert, which was, well.. just like grandma’s. I was ridiculously full after everything else, so I don’t think I was able to truly appreciate it, but it was mighty fine nonetheless.
Come trip two: dinner for dinner. What a concept! Started off with the biscuit, jam, and honey again, of course. Got a mixed drink: the Bourbon Basil Sour, which may sound a little odd, but was very nice and refreshing, without, y’know.. being too girly or anything.. because it has bourbon in it. On a related note, try the rosemary peach lemonade sometime. Sounds kinda weird, but it’s pretty awesome.
My entree this trip was the Not Your Mama’s Meatloaf. That is.. grass-fed beef blended with bacon and topped with a rosemary tomato shallot gravy. YUM. I’ve had bacon-wrapped meatloaf before, which was easily among my favorites, but bacon IN the meatloaf? Why on earth is this a foreign concept? Again, the protein was the highlight, but not the only thing worth noting. The dish comes with mac ‘n cheese and asparagus. I ordered some brown butter Brussels sprouts (triple dog dare ya to say that five times fast) as well. The mac ‘n cheese was not what I typically like. I prefer a more gritty, cheesy texture, whereas this was very creamy, but it was a really good complement to the meatloaf. I kept going for bites of the two together. The Brussels sprouts were good, but they’ve gone and got me on a bacon kick and I kept wishing they had some bacon on them. The asparagus was just kind of a garnish though; nothing special, but a nice touch if you’re an asparagus fan.
Tupelo Honey Cafe is bringing something sorely needed to the Chattanooga food scene. Over the years, I have been constantly perplexed at how difficult it is to find a restaurant that does good southern food well. I’m sure folks will disagree with me on that. And, if you do, by all means, let me know. I hope that I am wrong. But, mostly, what I have seen is just restaurants that do a thing or two (like fried green tomatoes, or fried chicken) well or restaurants that are trying way too hard to put new-fangled spins on southern food or restaurants that think “southern food” means that absolutely everything needs to be deep fried, or the dreaded.. buffet-style.. southern restaurant. Tupelo Honey Cafe is a refreshing change. I love the atmosphere. I love the concept. I love the staff. I love the food. It’s good, simple southern food. And LOTS OF IT. The menu is huge. There are a ton of delicious things to try, and virtually every meal I have had has seemed like the epitome of comfort food in some form or another. It makes me think of having a nice holiday meal with my family. If that’s something you ever find yourself havin’ a hankerin’ for, then I suggest you try it. Don’t be surprised if you see me there. I reckon I could be a-ok with eating here just about every day of the week.