Five: An Upscale Tavern With a Heart

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This North Shore eatery blends simply delicious food with neighborhood sharing.

Cris Eddings and Charles Morgan say they’re crazy about the location of their new restaurant so near the Tennessee River. Called Five, it has a number of distinctions.

Chris and CharlesPatrons walk into a dining room filled with the soft hum of happy people enjoying the freshest seafood in town. Overhead, the ceiling is full of eclectic chandeliers casting a warm glow on diners. An old friend travels to Belgium to collect them and they’re used throughout this Southern family of restaurants. Fanciful primitive paintings and period photographs bedeck the walls, all by artists and photographers Morgan knows personally with a few oversize photographs of their own family members among them. 

On Wednesday, half-price wine night, there is a table of women educators enjoying a special dinner together. The fresh catch is grouper and it’s delicious—tonight served with pasta and a Waldorf salad. A few casually dressed young couples talk softly after ordering as the neighborhood bar featuring craft cocktails begins to simmer. The Two North Shore eatery also offers outdoor seating in warm weather. Adjacent to Renaissance Park, a walk along the river after an early dinner is naturally appealing.

Five features a number of weekly highlights—beginning with a Meatless Monday vegetarian entre. Patrons seem to enjoy Wednesday half-price wine night and Thursday is Ladies’ Night. The simplicity of the menu gives the restaurant its name. There are five appetizers, five menu entrees’, five red wines, five white wines, five bottled beers and five on tap.

Charles Morgan is a restaurant icon in Destin, Florida where he started his first restaurant in 1979. He was Captain Morgan then, with a couple of fishing boats and a dog named Raspberry. Frustrated that he and his crew could never find a place to drink beer after a long day of fishing, he set up a small house with six picnic tables and only serving oysters and beer. He called it Harbor Docks and over the years it evolved to include a sushi bar and several rambling decks of restaurant seating overlooking Destin harbor.

DocksideMorgan currently co-owns six other restaurants from Birmingham to Tuscaloosa with a seventh just opened in Athens, Georgia. He and Eddings excel at launching restaurants in college towns, suggesting the demographics are a good fit and “the economics are right.”

Morgan is the son of prominent civil rights lawyer Charles Morgan, Jr. active in Birmingham during the 1960s and 1970s. Morgan’s father was said to be one of the most colorful lawyers in a region known for them. He first came to public attention because of a speech he made the day after the KKK bombed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and killed four black girls at Sunday school in 1963. He had taken to a podium and blamed Birmingham leaders for the killings because of their encouragement of pervasive racial hatred in the city. The speech prompted the family to move from the city and they sent young Charles to be a boarding student at St. Andrews in Sewanee, Tennessee. Later, Morgan attended the University of the South for two years. His familiarity with Chattanooga’s revitalized riverfront was another reason for opening.

Cris Eddings mother, Yoshie, practically introduced sushi to Destin in the early 1980s, helping to put Harbor Docks on the map. She still runs all the sushi bars among the restaurants.

Eddings has spent a good deal of time in Japan, observing the habits of restaurateurs, including his own family’s multigenerational restaurant.  “In Japan, many of the taverns and restaurants are family owned,” he says. “So, often the family lives over the restaurant and everyone comes down to cook and work in the restaurant for the day.” Now in Chattanooga, Eddings himself lives in a condominium at Two North Shore, over Five. He is excited about the opportunity to be here. “This place bonds the generations, from college kids to retirees, “ he says with a smile.

“We’ve always been unpretentious, sourcing natural local ingredients when it’s practical,” says Morgan. “It’s seasonal, but we don’t call ourselves a farm-to-table restaurant.”

Beignets“We are definitely gulf-to-table, though,” adds Eddings. The fresh catch at Five is flown straight from Harbor Docks’ own fish markets to Chattanooga within hours. “In any given region’s top 100 restaurants, none have a fresh catch that has never been frozen,” says Eddings. “Ours never is and that’s just one way Five is different.” The restaurant is also supportive of the local community.

In July 2012, the mobile-based American Lunch nonprofit was born—an idea hatched by Morgan’s son Chattem, a student at the University of Alabama.

This rolling commissary serves seafood gumbo or red beans and rice on Monday, Wednesday and Friday in several Chattanooga neighborhoods. Their older restaurants have a long tradition of engaging employees to serve Thanksgiving dinner to underserved communities. Between the American lunch program and the Thanksgiving feast, Chattanooga was no different this year. Besides sponsoring those meals, Five also provided coffee and/or cocktails for area fundraisers like Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Family and Children’s Partnership and the Chattanooga Community Kitchen. In fact, one percent of the restaurant’s profits go to nonprofit organizations around the city.

Longtime friend and patron of Harbor Docks, Chattanooga businessman Andy Derryberry says the restaurant is a good fit for the North Shore. “They definitely are a great addition to our community.”

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