Month: August, 2007

Ask a local: Shuford’s Smokehouse

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

Despite — or maybe because of — being inundated with garish advertisements on barns and billboards all along the 100+ miles of interstate leading from Nashville into Chattanooga, we decided to forego a trip to Ruby Falls. Instead, we hit the Tennessee riverfront, Coolidge Park, and the Walnut Street pedestrian bridge — the oldest surviving truss bridge in the South, and according to our host this afternoon, the longest pedestrian bridge in the world. (Ironic, since over the course of the day, we saw very few actual pedestrians.) By 6PM, almost all the local shops were closed.

So, too, the museums and galleries in the Bluff View Art District. We drove through the historic area, and again encountered mostly empty streets. Our luck changed for the better, though, when we crossed paths with a friendly local, willing to direct us to her favorite local barbecue joint in a town full of barbecue joints: Shuford’s Smokehouse.

With assistance from the GPS — hands down, the best thing I brought on the trip — we located the small, shack-like restaurant along the side of the road. Having already been warned that the place “wouldn’t look like much,” we stepped inside, undaunted, to embrace the local color. We didn’t even bat an eye when a large, greasy-aproned man emerged from behind a rolling metal gate to slap our slabs of meat onto a cutting board by the cash register.

Shuford’s Smokehouse

Shuford’s Smokehouse

We splurged on the Family Pack Ribs for 4, with sides of tater logs (thin-sliced skin-on potatoes, deep fried) and baked beans (with chunks of bacon… of course.) The lemonade was delicious with bits of actual pulp; we were told by the cashier/owner’s daughter that it’s fresh-squeezed daily. Shuford’s own special barbecue sauce — in regular and hot varieties — is made from scratch, every other day. She had come over to our table in part to check on us, and in part (we suspected) to figure out just what our story was, since she had spotted us taking copious photographs outside before dinner. (We told her that we were from New York City, which seemed to explain a lot.)

Shuford’s sides

Shuford’s ribs

Try as we might, the three of us only managed to polish off about half the family meal for 4. Amateurs all.

Shuford’s Smokehouse pig

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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.

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