From being burned to rubble to being rebuilt brick by brick, Lookout Mountain’s Café on the Corner reopens on Thursday.
The café has been closed since May 2014 due to an accidental gas fire that set the building ablaze, causing the roof to collapse. Owner Ruth Oehmig gave a sneak, complimentary peak to some community members on Tuesday and Wednesday to reacquaint them with their café favorites and to prepare staff members for Thursday’s grand reopening.
Cars filled the business district’s parking area and lined Scenic Highway Wednesday night as people strolled into the café.
String lights hung over the front patio, illuminating the freshly restored white brick building.
In the early 1900s, Café on the Corner operated as the town grocery. Ms. Oehmig and her son, chef Sven Lindroth, turned the corner building into a contemporary southern bistro in 2009, serving dishes like the fried green tomato BLT, crispy crab cakes, and the roasted vegetable lasagna.
The café instantly became a hit among Lookout Mountain and Chattanooga residents. The fire that destroyed the café in 2014 came as a blow. However, Ms. Oehmig was determined to get her restaurant back up and running.
Wednesday night the café exhaled life as white-shirted waiters and waitresses hustled on the hardwood floor to and from the kitchen, while customers dined at slate-colored tables in the dining room and cocktail area, tasting the different wines and trying out the night’s specials.
The complimentary menu included one appetizer per table and one entrée per person. Sweet, butter-topped cornbread served in a miniature cast iron pan commenced the dining experience. The appetizers to choose from were pimento cheese and hummus, fried chicken strips with honey mustard, gumbo, and flatbread topped with a tomato, zucchini, garlic, and lemon basil goat cheese spread.
Among the entrées, the shrimp and grits, red beans and rice, and pasta crudo—fixed with chicken, angel hair pasta, sun dried tomatoes, artichokes, capers, lemon, wine, and pesto—made the cut for the bistro’s sneak peak.
Ms. Oehmig walked around each table, greeting everyone and asking how they enjoyed their meal. Many smiles and much laughter burst from the café owner’s guests who expressed to her their deep enthusiasm for the café’s reopening.
Heads turned from every table when a server carried out an aesthetically crafted dish from the kitchen.
“This is amazing. Here, try it,” one guest said to another as she shared a bite of her shrimp and grits, prepared with chorizo cream, Andouille sausage, peppers, onions, and stone ground grits.
Oldies like “Stand by Me” played overhead and modern art hung from the cream-colored walls, creating a beautifully-blended atmosphere of the then-and-now.
Located at 826 Scenic Highway, Café on the Corner is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. It is open on Sunday for brunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
A couple looking to eat dinner at the café should expect to spend around $50 for beverages, an appetizer, and two main courses.
Based on the excitement and energy of the crowd at Wednesday night’s preview, it appears Café on the Corner will have no trouble picking up where it left off.