Remembering the Hungry Fisherman Restaurant

Sunday, August 17, 2008 - by Harmon Jolley
The Hungry Fisherman was located at 6715 Ringgold Road in East Ridge.  Customers could take home some matches with the logo of their favorite restaurant.  Click to enlarge.
The Hungry Fisherman was located at 6715 Ringgold Road in East Ridge. Customers could take home some matches with the logo of their favorite restaurant. Click to enlarge.

Shoney’s Restaurants have a long association with Chattanooga which dates to the early 1960’s. Founded by Alex Schoenbaum, the restaurant chain is remembered for its locations which were once part of the southeastern U.S. franchise for Big Boy Hamburgers. Statues of Big Boy, with red and white plaid overalls and holding a hamburger plate high, once stood at the entrance of every Shoney’s.

Shoney’s was a sponsor of the Bob Brandy afternoon children’s show on WTVC, and promoted concerts by the Chattanooga Symphony for area school children. I remember that Mr. Schoenbaum himself introduced one of the programs that my school attended at the Memorial Auditorium. It was after the remodeling in the mid-1960’s. I kept thinking that those large suspended acoustical tiles could fall at any minute.

I recently had lunch with a cousin who is district manager for a large restaurant chain in central Kentucky. My cousin commented on the challenges of keeping up with changes in what customers seek in a dine-out experience. In 1974, Shoney’s South sought to keep up with customer tastes by opening in East Ridge the fourth location of a new seafood restaurant chain - the Hungry Fisherman.

The Hungry Fisherman was located in the East Ridge Shopping Center near the I-75/Ringgold Road interchange. The retail center was anchored by the Zayre’s department store. As was common with other Shoney’s developments such as Captain D’s, a Shoney’s restaurant was located near the Hungry Fisherman.

The Chattanooga News-Free Press announced the Hungry Fisherman in an April 29, 1974 article. The restaurant would have a nautical décor with model ships and port holes, and could seat up to 600 people. One reached the steamboat-styled building by walking a gang plank. The building extended over a seven-acre artificial lake that was stocked with catfish. Part of the experience could include feeding the catfish, or taking a ride on a small paddle-wheeler.

Seafood was a bit cheaper in 1974 than today. Prices ranged from $2.25 to $3.50, and some items were all-you-can-eat. Lobsters could be selected from a tank, and were $8.95. Arrhh, mate, are ye not a seafood lover? The Hungry Fisherman also had chicken, steaks, and hamburgers on the menu.

The Hungry Fisherman, like Shoney’s, was popular after church, before dates, and after games. To continue to lure customers, the restaurant underwent an extensive remodeling in 1984. Meanwhile, the Shoney’s corporation underwent restructuring that led to the sale of the remaining Hungry Fisherman locations in the early 1990’s. The East Ridge site became the home of Trip’s Seafood.

The 2008 Chattanooga city directory lists a nursery business at the former 6715 Ringgold Road address of the Hungry Fisherman.

If you have memories of the Hungry Fisherman, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.

The Hungry Fisherman building was shown on the other side of the book of matches.  Click to enlarge.
The Hungry Fisherman building was shown on the other side of the book of matches. Click to enlarge.

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