The fireman dabbed his lips with a cloth napkin. Shirtsleeves rolled, hat removed and resting on the stool alongside, he leaned into the counter for another bite. As juices traced his wrists, and a stray rope of tobacco-colored onion slid from the griddle-toasted bun, he turned my way. I was hovering, waiting for a seat to open at the six-top bar, installed alongside the butcher case at Main Street Meats in downtown Chattanooga.
The latest wave of Chattanooga’s renaissance has also given rise to plenty of intriguing restaurants, and I take it as a personal challenge to sample as many as possible, an adventure unto itself. ... I conquer a BLT with house-cured bacon at Main Street Meats, on sourdough baked right next door.
Equal parts butcher shop and casual eatery, the specialty here – the owners are Erik and Amanda Niel, the duo behind another local hot spot, Easy Bistro – is, as the name implies, all things meaty. The lip-smacking charcuterie makes for a terrific starter, but it’s the simple, yet sublime sandwiches that really are a knockout. The MSM Pastrami Reuben, for example, combines salty meat, sour cabbage and pickles, and subtly sweet Russian dressing for a deeply satisfying and addictive effect.
Chef Erik Niel of Easy Bistro & Bar and Main Street Meats (Chattanooga) said, “We make a lovely Mortadella (fancy bologna) at Main Street Meats with lots of peanuts, black peppercorn and chunks of pork fatback, and then stuff it in beef bungs to poach it sous vide. Thick-sliced and griddled on the flat top then served on multi-grain with mayo, mustard, and chow-chow. It’s pretty boss—I put it on the menu because it’s fun and people love it. Plus, who doesn’t love a hot bologna sandwich?”