In the burgeoning downtown riverfront district of Chattanooga sits a great establishment named 212 Market Restaurant
While researching an interesting place for a rare lunch in Chattanooga, I came across this place as a consistent favorite. I thought it would be a good place to take a chance.
Because it’s located just a block away from the famed Chattanooga Aquarium, I assumed it was sited to take advantage of the visitors.
But no—I discovered that it was here long before the before the aquarium was ever built, and before anyone conceived of redeveloping this former warehouse district.
It couldn’t be easier to find, too. The aquarium is one of Tennessee’s most popular attractions, so I expected a touristy place that considered food secondary to volume.
I could not have been more wrong.
The interiors hearken back to the early 1990s, with a jewel-tone color scheme and pickled wood walls and tables. That may seem like a pitfall, but I love the way that the restaurant stayed un-self-consciously true to its original focus and didn’t see the need to change for mere fashion’s sake. The design was an honest statement that fit the place like a glove.
When T and I were seated, we were handed the regular lunch menu and a surprise: a “menuette” of specials.
I eat out a lot, but I have never been handed a “menuette.” It was a charming touch, with a name that perfectly described the small menu printed with daily specials.
But this is where they won me over: Apparently 212 Market was the first “green” restaurant in Tennessee, serving only local, organic ingredients. A small note and a discreet sign in the entry were the only modest announcements of that accomplishment.
The service was quick and courteous. The daily soup special was their pumpkin soup. Because it was late October, T and I both had to give it a try. When the warm bowls arrived, I was not only taken by the aroma of allspice and pumpkin, but also the sweetly mismatched Fiestaware.
The soup was wonderful and fresh, and the portions were perfection.
I prefer to order my meals one course at a time. That way, I can let a preceding course help me decide is makes it easy to know what I may feel like for a second course. The soup inspired confidence, so I dove in and ordered the bison loaf. T ordered homemade pasta, squash, ricotta, and pine nut ravioli.
We weren’t disappointed. The bison, set atop mashed potatoes, was perfectly cooked (not an easy task with such a gamey meat) and doused with a rich, mushroom-infused gravy. T’s dish was fresh and light, like a true Italian Bolognese with wilted greens.
I’m so glad I took a chance on 212 Market. Make it your choice for a nice, informal dinner the next time you’re in Chattanooga.
A strip of cafés and shops, public parks, and a river view are all within walking distance. I can see why so many people choose Chattanooga for a day trip—at peak season for fall leaves, this is Tennessee at its finest.