14 West Kent Street, Chattanooga North Shore
Business at ℹ️ Red Sauce is sunny with a chance of meatballs like you’ve never had. There are mushroom-truffle-chicken meatballs, vegetarian meatballs, meatballs with pomodoro sauce and more. It goes without saying, these aren’t your average meatballs, and that’s what restaurateurs Danny and Brittany Alcala were aiming for when they opened their newest restaurant on the Northshore. Their third eatery in Chattanooga, Red Sauce pours on the flavor and takes a turn from their other restaurant ventures. They opened ℹ️ Embargo ’62 with a Cuban-inspired menu on the Northshore in the summer of 2015, and by the end of the year will be in a new, larger location right down the street at the corner of Cherokee Boulevard and Manning Street. ℹ️ Ceniza, specializing in Caribbean fare, opened in ℹ️ Ooltewah’s Cambridge Square barely a year later. And now, the couple’s newest stake in the Scenic City’s restaurant scene is all about meatballs. They’re crazy about them. “I love meatballs—all different kinds,” says Danny Alcala.
The concept for Red Sauce was born in New York City at The Meatball Shop. That’s where Alcala first experienced the meaty craze. The menu was simple: four meatballs, five sauces and five sides. Red Sauce goes a step further. “We took that and ‘Chattanooga-tized’ it,” Alcala says. “We don’t want to be seen as competition for the other Italian restaurants in town.”
While meatballs are the focus, Italian flavors the menu at this restaurant—some with a Southern twist, like the caprese salad with buffalo mozzarella and fried green tomatoes. “We’re in the South—we love our fried green tomatoes,” Alcala says. Entrees include lasagna with bechamel sauce and stuffed pastas that change with the whim of the chef and baked pastas that rotate regularly.
Red Sauce, Alcala says, takes a Brooklyn-meets-Philly-meets-Little Italy-meets-Chattanooga approach—a fusion concept if there ever was one. There are two sides to Red Sauce—one, an intimate dining experience with soft Motown playing in the background; the other, a more lively outside patio that opens to the bar via a garage-door style window, bringing the outside in and vice versa. “Very loungy and relaxed—it’s a place where you can come and have dinner, a glass of wine or cocktails, listen to jazz and have a good evening,” Alcala says. “And if you’re in your spot and feel the vibe, you might want to do a little two-step. That’d be OK.”
There are two sides to the bar menu, too—bad and boujee. The “bad” side featuring drinks such as Swayze Something, a vodka-grapefruit drink concoction. The “boujee” side serves the classics, like a rye maraschino old-fashioned. The main dining room is small with seating for 30, but the two patios—enclosed and heated during cold weather—seat 110, increasing year round capacity.
Black accent walls with black-and-white tile floors add a sleek veneer to Red Sauce, while exposed duct work adds an industrial edge. Art on the walls of celebrities, such as Sophia Loren and members of The Rat Pack, give a wink to the 1950s and ’60s, creating a retro ambiance.
And the location? It’s slightly off the Northshore’s main drag, but right in the heart of the action of the area’s newest residential growth, and that alone, with the thousands of people living nearby, is all it takes to make Red Sauce one of the hottest places around.
3514 Hixson Pike in Hixson
Lawton Haygood’s newest restaurant, ℹ️ SideTrack, might be on the other side of the tracks but it’s the right side when it comes to great food—the kind he’s known for.
Some may have questioned Haygood’s decision to open in a place where several other restaurants have failed. But put together the man’s business acumen with his proven track record for his restaurants there’s no question that SideTrack, located next to the railroad tracks in Rivermont, is a sure bet. There was ℹ️ Canyon Grill (now sold) that brought thousands to a restaurant desert on Lookout Mountain; then ℹ️ Boathouse Raw Bar and Rotisserie, a favorite grill/oyster bar/watering hole on Riverside Drive; and ℹ️ Sugar’s Ribs on the side of Missionary Ridge where before there was nothing.
“This fits this market,” Haygood says of Hixson Pike’s northward growth. “This area is happening.” The menu is a mix of a couple of Boathouse favorites alongside dishes that make SideTrack its own—grilled octopus with hearts of palm; Fish Flying, a whole rainbow trout split open and flash-fried, a take on the slash-and-burn catfish at Canyon Grill; and a wood-grilled ground beef tenderloin with fontina cheese.
Haygood knows how to do rotisserie chicken. It’s a favorite at Boathouse in many dishes, but here, it’s done a little different, beginning as expected in a large rotisserie oven but finished in a pizza oven with a giant disc that spins slowly at 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, bringing the chicken to a mouthwatering, crispy finish. Pizza, on the other hand, is made on the grill. Go figure. But Haygood knows his way around his indoor wood grill. It’s his design—one he created years ago and sold to restaurants and chefs around the country.
“I’ve worked with some of the best chefs, like Wolfgang Puck,” Haygood says. “I had to teach him how to use my grill, and while I was teaching him, he was teaching me. I’ve taught and learned.” Transforming the restaurant from its original life as a Huddle House took some time, but the end result is eye-catching. Additional land was purchased, the parking was expanded and an entrance/exit was added from Lupton Drive, to avoid crossing busy traffic on Hixson Pike.
SideTrack’s exterior is brick with copper trim. Inside, there are two dining areas with seating for around 130 people with an exposed kitchen that brings dynamic interaction between chef and patrons. A large bar dominates the scene. “The Boathouse is a fun bar for beer and margaritas. SideTrack is a little more ‘cocktaily’ than that,” Haygood says. “But we do have tequila cocktails.”
Haygood’s wife, Karen, along with friend and designer Joan Waddel of J. Waddell Interiors in Louisville, are the women behind the design. Their aim was to make the two dining areas slightly different in color and texture while keeping the ambiance neutral and cozy with warm shades of black, walnut and terracotta highlighted by “funky spots of color,” Karen Haygood says. “We wanted it to be classy, but casual—make you feel like the restaurant has been there forever. I think we’ve achieved that.” An outdoor dining area will be completed in time for spring’s al fresco meals. Managing partner Jesse Rogers chimes in “This is a place to come in, have a meal, have a drink and get sidetracked.”
As new restaurants open in Chattanooga, others are experiencing growth spurts as restaurateurs open new locations of some of the city’s favorite eateries. Scheduled to open in late 2017 or by early 2018 are:
Owner: Eve Williams
Eve William’s fourth Mojo, scheduled to open later this month in Cambridge Square, was born of customer demand, but it took a while to happen. When she was first contacted about an open space in the development in 2010, she’d just opened her East Brainerd location, the third since opening her original restaurant in St. Elmo in July 2002. But timing was right when she learned of a space that had just come open. “We’re very measured in our growth,” she says. “But Cambridge Square has really developed a wonderful area with so much to offer. It’s become very popular. It has vendors, farmers markets and live entertainment for everyone to enjoy.” And now, great made-to-order burritos and more.
Chef owner: Nathan Lindley
When Lindley opened his first Il Primo in Riverview in June 2014, he had no plans to open a second. But customer demand convinced him it would be a good business move. “There is no night of the week there is not a wait for a table,” he says of the Riverview location. So he opened the new Il Primo on the other side of town in October and has hopes that it will help the original location by lessening the wait time for a table, while positively impacting the Ooltewah area with a new dining choice.
The new restaurant is slightly larger than the one in Riverview but “hopefully will still have the constant communal buzz that the current one has,” Lindley says.
Photography by Neelu Eldurkar