My son Jack told me that he would like to try a place he had heard about called ‘Southside Saloon’ located at 1301 Chestnut St. I think he expected it to be a macho place or something out of an old Western picture because he was wearing his jeans and his Western boots (he is on vacation).
Parking was easy. They had a small lot next to the building. I have to admit, I was hoping to see creaky old swinging doors (but I doubt they would have those with the heat in Chattanooga). I was feeling much braver having my son with me, so I was ready for any John Wayne characters that might be inside.
When we walked in, I didn’t hear a player piano or poker chips scattering on a table. It wasn’t a dark, scary dive, but it but it did take my eyes a minute to adjust. The appearance of it just didn’t go with its name. I’m a sucker for a good name that expresses a business’ atmosphere and I wanted to see why this place was called a ‘saloon’.
Televisions were all over the walls and there was a short bar that could seat possibly four people. It had a glass cooler behind it filled with bottled beer and it just didn’t seem like the type of bar where they slide a cold, foam-filled mug across it.
We sat down at one of the tables and our server took our drink order while we looked at the menu. Finally, I saw a little of the saloon’s personality! They had items with Western names and I knew I would have fun trying the food.
I ordered ‘Cactus Cheese Sticks’ with spicy ranch sauce for $5.45 for our appetizer. For his meal, Jack ordered an open-faced roast beef sandwich with gravy for $7.95 and two sides came with it. Jack chose fried okra and mac and cheese. I ordered the ‘Chuck Wagon Mushroom Burger with Swiss’ for $5.95 which also came open-faced and with my choice of chips or fries.
The cheese sticks were brought to us and they didn’t look any different than other cheese sticks. But I was sure the spicy sauce was the kicker and why it was called ‘Cactus’. It looked like regular marinara sauce and I was disappointed when it didn’t bite me back. It was really no big deal and I could have bought it from a box at the grocery store. It did have little green flecks in the batter, so maybe that was the cactus part.
I didn’t care for any more after trying the first one. While my son ate the others, I looked around for saloon things. The silver disco ball hanging up just didn’t make sense to me. On the wall where we were sitting, was an art-hanging made of wire in the shape of a cheerleader (instead of a saloon girl). And the music they were playing didn’t seem to fit either.
Olivia Newton-John was playing overhead and Jack said he and his friends used to call her ‘Olivia Neutron Bomb’ because she was so hot. I thought I was going to lose my teeth in my tea glass when he said that.
When our meals arrived, I dug in to my fries. They were steak fries, light and crisp and not greasy. They were very good! Jack said his mac and cheese was really good, too! I wanted to try it, but he lapped it down pretty fast.
The burger was hand-patted and covered in gravy, but the Swiss cheese on top of my burger was not melted. It was tasty, but the mushrooms tasted like what I would get from a jar. It wasn’t the worst thing I had, but it didn’t get a ‘whe-e-doggie’.
I was able to try one of Jack’s okra nuggets and they tasted fresh and not greasy. So all in all, I think the food was okay and the price was great! But for some reason, I feel we weren’t very welcomed. Our server seemed to be in a hurry for us to go. She grabbed Jack’s plate as soon as he took his last bite and she kept coming back to see if she could take mine. When you have dentures, you tend to eat a little slower and I wasn’t going to hurry because they weren’t supposed to close for another hour.
I promise it wasn’t two minutess before she came back just after I had taken a bite and asked, “Still doing okay?” (I tried not to shoot her a look).
Even if my disappointment was mostly from my own expectations and not necessarily the simple food, I would recommend this place for the price, the easy parking and the cleanliness, but if you want a place with memorable food and atmosphere, ‘keep on moving, Pilgrim.’
11 a.m.-3 p.m.