Chattanooga's downtown is definitely see-worthy, but if you're looking for the local cool crowd, the Southside District, centered along Main Street, is always a good bet, and right now, you can't do much better than this butcher shop and restaurant, right at the heart of the action. House made brats, a killer burger (with great pickles, bacon and gruyere), steaks (oh, why not, go ahead), it's all in play. Make sure to order the pork rinds to start—they're delicate, pretty, perfectly seasoned—even if you don't think you like pork rinds, these might just bring you around.
For Erik Niel, chef and owner of Easy Bistro & Bar and Main Street Meats in Chattanooga, Tennessee, there’s no better place to kick back and relax than Alys Beach. Niel’s parents, Bren Niel and Bill Sudderth are currently building a home in Alys Beach, but he’s been able to enjoy vacations there for years.
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.
When you’re a small city two hours from Nashville and Atlanta, it can be hard to get the attention you deserve. Chattanooga flies under the radar but keeps a lot of aces up its sleeve -- it's outdoorsy, affordable, and a damned delicious place to spend a weekend. Start with back-to-back meals at restaurants by James Beard semifinalist Erik Niel. His charcuterie is aged in-house at Main Street Meats, and he sources cheeses and beef from Tennessee farms. Then, it’s on to Easy Bistro & Bar for a Southern style brunch -- order the bacon omelet, tomato pie, and buttermilk biscuits.