Chattanooga Choo-Choo

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007 | All Things, Eats, Travel

S and J were already waiting with our rented car when I deplaned at BNA, twenty minutes early. The extra time afforded us the chance to make a breakfast stop on the way to Chattanooga.

Not wanting to deviate too far off the I-24, we decided upon one of the ubiquitous Cracker Barrels along our route. We exited in Manchester, and just as we were about to pull into the chain restaurant’s parking lot, a potentially more appealing alternative presented itself: Emma’s Family Restaurant. The sign outside the decidedly unremarkable-looking establishment promised “Home Cookin [sic] at a Great Price”; the parking lot was just full enough on a Wednesday morning to suggest a loyal base of regulars. We went for it.

Once inside, we knew we had made the right choice. Our waitress had a thick twang and an easy smile, and knew most of the clientele by name. We were set up with three coffees (strong, good, and offered with half-and-half only) and given some time to peruse our plastic-laminated, local advertisement emblazoned menus.

First off: nothing on the menu was more than $10 — and that was the T-bone steak dinner. Emma’s much-touted buffet (which included fried catfish, fried chicken and chicken-fried steak) was $5.99. Corn dogs — offered as a side — were $1.39. Pancakes could be ordered individually. Every one of the breakfast entrees included meat — just eggs: not an option — and a choice of hashbrowns, homefries or grits. A biscuits and country gravy add-on was available for 50 cents.

Yes, this is Tennessee. (Our bill came to $12. )

Tennessee breakfast

Later, in Chattanooga, at the Bi-Lo (where I applied for a shoppers discount card), we spied this local specialty: sausage in a can! (And more, but I refrained from posting the photo here, out of deference to the more delicate-stomached among you.)

Canned sausage

And of course, you can’t be in Chattanooga and not visit the Chattanooga Choo-Choo: “It’s a train. It’s a song. It’s a hotel.” A Holiday Inn, to be exact. The chain took over the decaying Terminal Station, and after an extensive $4 million renovation, reopened it as a hotel on April 11, 1973.

The dome room was converted into a dining hall; the baggage room became the “Station House” restaurant with singing servers. Other cafes and retail shops — offering souvenirs, “Old Tyme Photos” and the like — opened along formal gardens in the former rail concourse.

Chattanooga Choo-Choo

Chattanooga Choo-Choo

Visitors can buy tickets for an authenic New Orleans trolley (below, in yellow) for a trip around the Choo Choo complex.

Chattanooga Choo-Choo

And most intriguingly: a pair of original sleeper cars — converted into hotel guest quarters.

Chattanooga Choo-Choo

Check out the rest of today’s photos on flickr.

There are 2 Comments ... Chattanooga Choo-Choo

August 2, 2007

Pork brains (with milk gravy)!!!

August 2, 2007


Go for it ...