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

Chattanooga Books Available By John Wilson

John Wilson, former Hamilton County Historian, has written two volumes on the early families of Hamilton County and also books on Chattanooga and on Lookout Mountain, as well as editing books on Chattanooga's railroads and the Stokes and Hiener photo collections. Railroads In And Around Chattanooga , featuring Chattanooga's intriguing railroad history, has 69 chapters and covers ... (click for more)

Copies Of Chattanooga Photo Book Collection Still Available At Zarzour's, By Mail

Copies of books in the Historic Chattanooga Photos series by Chattanoogan.com are still available at Zarzour's Restaurant and by mail. A fourth, and perhaps final, volume, Old Chattanooga Photos, is planned to be issued later this year. Railroads In And Around Chattanooga , featuring Chattanooga's intriguing railroad history, has 69 chapters and covers rail history here and ... (click for more)

Motorcyclist Dies After Crossing Center Line On Bonny Oaks Drive

A motorcyclist died after crossing the center line on Bonny Oaks Drive on Friday night. Chattanooga Police responded at 6:43 p.m. to a traffic crash at 7100 Bonny Oaks Dr.   A Jeep Renegade driven by 33-year-old Christina L. Cangelier was traveling east on Bonny Oaks Drive when a Suzuki motorcycle crossed the double yellow line and struck the Jeep head on. The ... (click for more)

Richard Anderson, 29, Struck And Killed While Trying To Cross Highway 153

Richard Anderson II, 29, was killed Friday night, while trying to cross Highway 153.   Chattanooga Police responded at 11:36 p.m. to a traffic crash involving a pedestrian struck.   A Honda Civic driven by Kelsey Hamilton, 20, was traveling southbound on Highway 153 in the middle lane with other traffic in adjacent lanes.   Mr. Anderson, wearing ... (click for more)

Memorial Day Remembrance

Memorial/Decoration Day officially became rooted in the American consciousness by Major General and then head of the fraternal organization of the Grand Army of the Republic Commander in Chief John A. Logan's General Order No. 11., which publicly conveyed that, “the 30th day of May 1868 is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Those Who Said Nothing

I have two wonderful friends who are smart – each has a doctorate. One, a left-leaning liberal, is not bothered in the least by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos' sweeping cuts and changes to public education. “Trump will be impeached before any of her plans can take place” is the promise. My other chum so far to the right the guy needs a turn signal. “I’ve been watching this ... (click for more)