Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wednesday Dine Out: Big River Grille

When I first moved to the Scenic City, the downtown area was an embarrassment. Where once there had been elegant shops and restaurants were now empty store fronts and seedy shops. But in the early 90s, a group of forward thinking residents got together and produced a plan to renew the area. The keystone would be the Tennessee Aquarium, now the largest freshwater aquarium in the world. It was located right on the Tennessee River, and merchants and entrepreneurs began flocking to the surrounding area. The result has been tremendous, giving us a downtown of which to be proud.

One of the first tenants in the area was the Big River Grille. Three locals were ahead of the trend of microbreweries when the opened just a block from the Aquarium in an old trolley barn, and it quickly caught on as a great spot for dinner or beer. They've expanded over the years to include outlets in Disney World and Nashville, and have become part of the Gordon-Biersch group. They also have a second location in Chattanooga near Hamilton Place Mall, and that was my destination this week.

Of course, the drawing card is the beer. And it's terrific! In the past, I've often gotten the five beer sampler, allowing you to taste all their beers. But usually I gravitate toward a wheaty beer, and have enjoyed their Vienna Lager, so that's what I opted for. Yum!

The food is an interesting mix of pub food and entrees. They have great burgers and pizzas, but their meatloaf is awesome! But I was feeling adventurous, and studied the menu for quite a while before choosing the Blue Crab Stuffed Chicken Breast. It was stuffed with blue crab and artichokes, lightly breaded and fried. Wow! The server had told me it was her favorite item on the menu (side note: I read recently that servers are told to always say whatever the person orders is their favorite!), and I agree. It was a huge breast with rice on the side. I also had a salad.

It's an interesting time of the year to dine out. There were several large parties around me, people in festive holiday clothes and exchanging small gifts. Office or church groups, I guessed. Next to me were four women who I think considered themselves the local version of the Sex in the City gals - one had a lemon drop martini, the rest ordered water or iced tea! And the restaurant is definitely loud - which for the single diner means you can eat and not have to shout at someone the whole time!

It was a nice meal, a convenient location, and did I mention the good beer?

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