Remembering Morrison's Cafeterias in Chattanooga

Tuesday, December 3, 2013 - by Harmon Jolley
Grand opening advertisement for the Morrison's in Eastgate Mall
Grand opening advertisement for the Morrison's in Eastgate Mall

In the 1990’s, like many Americans, I stepped up the emphasis on healthier food choices.  I subscribed for a while to Cooking Light magazine, and watched On the Menu on CNN.   I don’t think that my diet was that bad previously, but I did start watching calories, fat, sodium, and sugar levels a bit more.   I started looking for restaurants that supported my healthy diet.

Beginning with its local opening in the mid-1990’s, Morrison’s Fresh Cooking in Brainerd Village became a favorite restaurant of mine.   There, I could have choices such as rotisserie chicken, steamed broccoli and carrots, and a whole grain roll.   The speed of service was somewhere between the traditional cafeteria and fast food.   I would stop there whenever near the Brainerd area.

The parent company, Morrison’s Cafeteria, was founded in 1920 in Mobile, Alabama by J.A. Morrison.  In September, 1962, Morrison’s Cafeteria was one of several businesses to open in the new Eastgate Mall in Brainerd.  An article in the September 16, 1962 Chattanooga Times reported that the public could tour Morrison’s that afternoon.   A spokesman from the corporate office of Morrison’s said that his company had wanted to open a Chattanooga location for some time.

The Eastgate Morrison’s was decorated in motifs that included scenes from Chattanooga’s history.  There was the Farm Room with rustic beams and lanterns, the Railroad Room with a locomotive mural, a Steamboat Room with plaques of riverboats, and the Victorian Room with gilded windows.  Each Morrison’s location had similar designs which later earned the company recognition in the April 5, 1968 Time magazine.

The local Morrison’s became a favorite of residents, with lines often wrapping around the corner building of the mall.  Interstate bus drivers often stopped to allow passengers to go through the line.  That was not only because of the good food but also because the mall’s large parking lot offered the “40 acres to turn this rig around” proclaimed in the song of the same name.

Morrison’s also operated the employee cafeteria at Provident Life and Accident Insurance Company downtown.  The original location was on the seventh floor of the South building facing Fountain Square.   When the West building of Provident opened in 1983, the cafeteria was moved to the atrium level.  It was common to see not only Provident workers, but also Hamilton County elected officials and UT-Chattanooga professors.  The chess pie was a favorite of many.

The opening of Hamilton Place in 1987 attracted many of Eastgate’s customers and stores.  Morrison’s followed the trend by changing its address to Hamilton Place.   

The Morrison chain had faced competition from rival Piccadilly Cafeteria for some time.   In 1996, Morrison’s sold its Fresh Cooking division that included the traditional cafeterias and Fresh Cooking stores to Piccadilly. 

My favorite Fresh Cooking of Brainerd Village became a Piccadilly Express before being replaced by a Qdoba Mexican restaurant (another favorite).   Within the past year, I had to look to other addresses for my favorite diners, as the Brainerd Village Qdoba was converted to a Speedy Ca$h office.

If you have memories of Morrison’s - particularly of certain menu items - please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.  I’ll post some of your comments in an update at the end of this article.

Reader Feedback

Their fried liver with onions was wonderful, as well as the rare roast beef with new potatoes.  The egg custard pie was my favorite dessert there.  The elegant servers made you feel very special.

I miss the Morrison's Cafeterias.  Their food was very good especially the Chicken Tampico. 

 



Aerial view of Eastgate Mall, with Morrison's on the front right corner
Aerial view of Eastgate Mall, with Morrison's on the front right corner

Civil Rights Program at UTC on March 26

The Departments of History and Political Science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga are pleased to announce that on Thursday, March 26, 2015, at 6:00 pm in the University Center's Raccoon Mountain Room, Dr. Renee Romano of Oberlin College will deliver a lecture entitled "What Kind of Reckoning?: Making Sense of the Contemporary Prosecutions of Civil Rights-Era ... (click for more)

Program with NPS Chief Historian Emeritus Ed Bearss is March 16

Public historian and documentary producer David Currey will share clips from An American Journey: The Life and Times of Ed Bearss which highlights the life “of one of the nation’s most renowned historians.”   Following the short video presentation, Mr. Bearss and Currey will discuss the documentary and Mr. Bearss’ life experiences from his service in World War II through ... (click for more)

Cleveland, Tn., Production Company Owner Charged With Defrauding Church Of God Of $100,000

The head of a Cleveland, Tn., production company has been charged with defrauding the Cleveland-based Church of God International of $100,000 in connection with his part in setting up the church's world convention in Orlando, Fla., in 2010. Troy Scot Carter was charged by federal authorities with securities fraud. A four-page criminal information says the church hired Carter ... (click for more)

Family Escapes Sunday Morning Blaze

A Chattanooga family was getting ready for church Sunday morning when they heard a loud pop on the back side of the house. The pop they heard was apparently a window breaking from intense flames on the outside of the house. Larry Erskine, his wife Nicole, and their two-year-old daughter got out of the house without injuries and called 911.  The Chattanooga Fire Department ... (click for more)

Finley Stadium Needs To Grow Up - And Response

RE:  Finley Stadium Financial Picture Rosy; Beer And Alcohol Sales Approved; AstroTurf Almost Ready and City, County Pitching In $250,000 Each For New Finley Stadium AstroTurf I read a story here five days ago about a rosy future for Finley stadium. It lead me to believe that the stadium was making money and even improvements with donations.  Then we get a short ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Sunday Funnies

They say March roars in like a lion and leaves like a lamb. So as you reach for your lambs-wool sweater on this last Sunday of the month, allow me to lighten up a bit with a new edition of my Sunday Funnies. I have a delightful crowd that keeps me supplied in jokes and these are some of the best that have come my way: A WOMAN'S PERFECT BREAKFAST -- She's sitting at the table ... (click for more)