Basically, our annual “girls’ trip” this year consisted of lurching from one awesome Chattanooga restaurant to the next with the time in between spent trying to get hungry again! I’m not kidding.
We believe this is our 19th year of the “girls’ trip.” Five of us plan it every year on MLK weekend — but, to us, MLK stands for “Madly Leaving Knoxville.” No disrespect to Dr. King, a personal hero of mine, but my favorite activities dedicated to celebrating his birthday occur in Knoxville either on Thursday before the weekend when the commemorative lunch program is held, or the Monday after, when the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra plays a concert in his honor. So, since over the years several members of our group have worked for government agencies and therefore had the King Monday off, this seemed like a good weekend to set for the annual out-of-town jaunt.
We always go somewhere we can access by car. We started off going to Kiawah Island for a couple of years and, since then, have been to Gatlinburg and Townsend several times, Atlanta, Nashville, Chattanooga a few times, Asheville a few times, Greenville, South Carolina, and Highlands, North Carolina, where we have gone the past three years. We were headed to Highlands again this year when the snow storm hit last week, causing us to re-think our plans and head west instead of east in an attempt to dodge the dodgy weather.
We stayed in a friend’s cute condo on the North Shore (thanks, Carol and Wayne!) and had an absolute blast. Everyone knows how much I love Knoxville and what we have made of our downtown. Spending a long weekend in downtown Chattanooga has given me even more enthusiasm about the heights to which we still can aspire. The trip to ‘Nooga (as one of my old copy editor friends used to call it in order to make it fit into one-column newspaper headlines) was inspirational on many fronts: the high, high quality of a wide variety of restaurants, the fabulous museum, the pedestrian bridge over the river, the art district, all manner of retail offerings and the area’s general walkability and bike-ability. (Not that we did any biking. And not that we went to the museum.)
Taco Mamacita, located at 109 North Market Street, is a very cool-looking place with a “Fresh Mex” concept. It reminds me a little of the wildly popular Chuy’s concept, which recently opened in west Knoxville. We loved the food and the ambiance and highly recommend it if you are looking for a fun, casual meal featuring both food and drinks made in-house from fresh ingredients.
Knowing that we had dinner reservations that night at the much-hyped Alleia, we knew we had to try to work up an appetite during the afternoon.
We did, at least, take a little walk through Renaissance Park. We were intrigued by two large grassy knolls we saw. Turns out, they are constructed on top of industrial waste from when the Roper manufacturing site was torn down to make room for development on the north side of the river.
After our nature walk, it was time for a little “retail therapy,” literally!
Fortunately for us, another shopping center right across the street also called our names.
Whole Foods is a little different from what we are used to. They didn’t have Coke for Cheryl’s favorite cocktail, a Crown and Coke, for instance. But they did have some kind of organic cola. No little Keurig k-cups. Guess they aren’t “green” enough.
“You’ve got to go to Alleia!” That’s what everybody said. So we did. If you want to get an idea of how edgy this place is, just click here to go to the restaurant’s website. Located at 25 East Main Street, it is a little difficult to find if you don’t know what you are looking for.
I forgot to take pictures of our food until we were finished! Big boo-boo on my part. But, truthfully, we didn’t finish. None of us did. The portions were simply huge. Susan took home half of her lasagna. I took home more than half of my pizza. Two folks had papparadelle with braised veal breast and I saw a lot of that in our condo refrigerator later that night. I would describe the food as good, but not as over-the-top fabulous as we had been led to believe.
Anyway, we ended up back in the bar because we had run into our friend Ron Harr and his wife, Linda Andreae, and we wanted to spend a little time with them.
On the MLK trip in the early years, we would have followed up our dinner with a night of dancing at a local bar. But I guess we are getting old, because we only went back to the condo. We did stay up until after 1 a.m., though, dancing and singing along to an oldies channel on cable TV. I know. Lame.
Cheryl fell in love with the paintings of David Swanagin. Click here to see some examples of his work.
We decided to take another walk and headed out of River Gallery to see what we could see.
We didn’t actually go to the museum partly out of deference to Cheryl, who is not really a fan of museums. We did, however, visit the museum’s gift shop where Katie bought a beautiful pashmina scarf that was on sale. When you are friends with the head of the Chamber of Commerce, you feel a certain responsibility to spend money in his town!
Located at 12 West 13th Street, Urban Stack is called a “burger lounge!”
We visited Warehouse Row next and were a little disappointed to find it about half empty. But we really enjoyed a home furnishings shop called Revival, where Susan fell in love with a set of Simon Pearce glasses. It was fun to run into our Knoxville friend Kreis Beall there! Kreis is the founder of Blackberry Farm and has exquisite taste. She’s crazy about the store. That’s a huge recommendation in itself.
Then we had to go back to the condo and take naps! I know. Lame again.
But that gave us the energy we needed to head out to what would be our favorite eatery of the whole trip, a small little place called ChatO Brasserie.It is charmingly simple in design with the most wonderful menu and excellent, friendly service. Located at 200 Manufacturers Road, it was within walking distance of our North Shore condo.
Cheryl, who never had tasted foie gras, asked Madge what it was. “Liver,” Madge said. “But it doesn’t taste like liver.” Cheryl agreed to taste it and Madge popped a small piece in Cheryl’s mouth, whereupon Cheryl’s beautiful face bunched up into an ugly grimace “What did it taste like, Cheryl?” I asked. “Liver!” she said.
We decided to share a dessert: a maple souffle that contained candied walnuts.
On the way home, we stopped by FoodWorks at 205-C Manufacturers Road for a nightcap, but I was too tired to take any pictures. Maybe because it was so late, the bar service was not the greatest.
On Sunday morning, we got great news. Cheryl’s husband Brian had okayed the art purchase! So we headed back to River Gallery to pick up Cheryl’s new David Swanagins!
Another successful MLK weekend in the memory books. It was a good one. We recommend Chattanooga for a great weekend getaway.
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