This handful of restaurants offers outdoor appeal every spring.
It’s springtime in Chattanooga, and diners are flocking to the city’s hot spots for lunch under the warming sun or a leisurely dinner and drinks by moonlight. Patio-centric eateries are readying their magical havens, unfurling colorful umbrellas and breathing new life into once-neglected patios now gleaming with the season’s first flowers. It’s an invigorating time of year, one that invites us to dine outdoors.
Back Inn Cafe
411 Second St.
www.bluffviewartdistrict.com or (423) 265-5033
With a view that surpasses most others in the city, one that encompasses the Tennessee River and Missionary Ridge while overlooking the River Gallery Sculpture Garden, Back Inn’s outdoor dining area is hard to beat. Take a seat and look around, the place oozes history, from its century-old Spanish revival property on the corner to a collection of houses with period architectural styles. Walled gardens covered in vines of Carolina jasmine connect the properties and contemporary sculpture is interspersed throughout. So it’s little wonder that the two-level patio at Back Inn is the go-to place to indulge in Margherita flatbread ($12) paired with a light and fruity Italian red wine. Or fork a grilled scallop ($24, served with spaghetti squash and grilled green tomatoes) followed by a sip of Napa sauvignon blanc. And on Wednesdays from 5 p.m. till closing, get happy with half-price wines on all bottles under $40. Most of the 38-seat patio is shaded with a vine-covered awning that allows sunlight to trickle through. But there is a small part for sun lovers that is “perfect for days when the warmth of the sun makes an outdoor dining experience energizing,” says Michael Vasta, director of operations.
1818 Chestnut St.
thesouthsidesocial.com or (423) 708-3280
Get your game on in an outdoor game “room” with corn hole, ping pong, bocce ball and horseshoes, or sit back and sip on a cold one while others are at play. This restaurant takes fun to a new level, with three outdoor dining areas: one that seats more than 50, with incredible views of Lookout Mountain providing a front seat to amazing sunsets; another one that seats about 45, with Davenport Field and Finley Stadium in the foreground and the mountain as a backdrop; and the third courtyard area seats plenty, and most will be playing the games, listening to live music or enjoying a cigar over by the old Airstream trailer/cigar lounge. All this, and great food, too. So while you’re enjoying the outdoors, feast on slow-roasted pork belly sliders with housemade kimchee ($12), lollipop chicken wings ($13) or made-from-scratch mozzarella sticks ($9). The patios may be reserved for private affairs, and happy hour happens Monday-Wednesday from 4-7 p.m. and on Thursdays from 4 p.m. through midnight.
9431 Suite 109, Bradmore Lane, Ooltewah
www.winedownbar.com or (423) 531-9463
Wine Down, offering 50 wines by the glass, is the perfect place to wind down after a busy day. Choose from the familiar chardonnays and cabernets, or educate your palate with lesser-known vintages, such as an Italian nebbiolo or a French vouvray. Either way, you’re sure to enjoy them along with one of several meat-and-cheese boards ($13-$20) or a basket of crispy Brussels sprouts ($7), one of the latest food trends. Or if you’re in the mood for something a little more substantial, go for the Cuban made with local cheese, Benton’s ham and housemade pickles served on Niedlov’s bread ($12, with fries). As for the view, the patio is located at the corner of Cambridge Square offering a view of the quadrangle, which comes complete with a fountain and live music on summer evenings. The Tennessee countryside lends a hand, as well, offering a backdrop of forest surrounding The Honors Course and extending up White Oak Mountain beyond. The patio seats 34 diners across 9 tables and may be reserved for special occasions. Happy hour happens Monday through Friday from 4-7 p.m. and offers $5 house wines, $4 cocktails and $4-$5 food specials, such as sliders, tacos and fried pickles.
532 Lookout St.
www.ujchattanooga.com or (423) 468-3725
People slowly driving by in the heat of the 5 o’clock traffic will only be envious of you as you sip on a cold beer sitting at the “Wedge,” a big communal table in the shade of a large patio canopy with a view of the Fireman’s Fountain as cooling water spews from its hose. Turn your head only slightly and you’re greeted by the professionally done lush landscaping of Unum. It’s the perfect setting for a former gas station that now fills stomachs rather than tanks. And one of the best ways to get the job done is with one of the joint’s favorite warm-weather dishes—grilled chicken arugula salad ($9). “And you can’t go wrong with a Steinbeck’s Burger ($10.50), either,” says manager Sean Corley. The patio area seats up to 100 with plenty of standing room and can be reserved for parties, depending on the size of the group, date and time. And if you get tired of sheer relaxation on a beautiful day, there’s always a game of corn hole to play.
Café on the Corner
825 Scenic Highway, Lookout Mountain, Tenn.
www.cafeonthecorner.com or (423) 825-5005.
A mountain oasis in the heart of Lookout Mountain, Café on the Corner is a welcome addition to life on the mountain, particularly during the warm months when cool mountain breezes and bright sunshine beckon diners to the patio with its large maple trees and big red umbrellas adding cheer. At night, Edison lights add a warm and inviting atmosphere. If the evening gets a little cool, warm up by the big stone fire pit while feasting on any of the farm-to-table specialties you’ll find on the menu, such as the roasted vegetable lasagna or heirloom tomato tart. The patio seats 55 guests and may be reserved for private functions —even weddings, says owner Ruth Oehmig. Half-price wine night happens every Wednesday, and drink specials are offered almost every day throughout the summer. A favorite refreshing one that’s sure to brighten your day is Square One cucumber-infused vodka served with cantaloupe juice.
Story by Anne Braly
Photography compiled by Vincent Rizzo and staff