After a late Saturday night out at the drive-in, Lionel and I decided to enjoy the beautiful weather on Sunday and take it easy. The idea of a late home-cooked brunch was enticing, but neither of us was up to the task of actually getting off the couch and into the kitchen.
“We could always try Bea's,” he suggested, looking up from his homemade VHS cleaning contraption.
We've been meaning to go for a while, and the idea of a Lazy Susan at our table matched our energy levels exactly. So we were off.
The outside of the restaurant isn't much to look at, but the number of cars in the parking lot made up for any lack of aesthetic. The sign proudly stated that the restaurant was established in 1950, and the staff told us that the food was all made-from-scratch, just like it was more than 65 years ago.
The menu at Bea's changes slightly each day, but many of the dishes appear consistently, such as fried chicken and BBQ pork. You pay one price ($12.50) and eat as much as you want.
The dishes keep coming. The lazy Susan keeps spinning. It gets more and more likely that you're going to have to roll yourself back to your car...
That Sunday morning, Bea's was cooking up fried chicken, hand-pulled BBQ pork, roast beef, new potatoes in white crème sauce, pinto beans, potato salad, coleslaw, yeast rolls, cornbread, and peach cobbler. Lionel was prepared to start rolling.
The after-church rush was in full swing, but we were seated immediately. Service was exceptional. Our waitress seemed to always be moving, always taking dishes away and bringing out more, quick to smile and quicker to answer questions.
The tables appeared to hold about eight people in total, and we decided before even eating that this was the sort of place we would take our families when they came to town to visit. What a fun experience, spinning the lazy Susan around, chatting as you stuffed yourselves silly! Since it was just the two of us, we ate lunch with strangers, which always makes for interesting conversation if you're in the mood.
Lionel and I, however, were in the mood for eating.
I think it's relevant to add here that though I was born and raised in Tennessee, my family's from New England, making the home-cooking at Bea's quite different from the home-cooking I know. When I judge Southern food, there's always a part of me that wonders if I'm simply eating it with the wrong expectations.
The fairest way to put things is that the food at Bea's is simple. I'm sure they would be the first to let you know that if you're looking for something fancy, you've chosen the wrong place to eat. The pinto beans taste like pinto beans. The potatoes taste like potatoes. If you're a fan of unique seasonings and textures, this won't satisfy.
I enjoyed all of the dishes, though I found—as is common with home-cooking—sometimes one plate could vary in taste pretty drastically from the next. Everyone had raved about Bea's fried chicken, but my first piece was lukewarm and kind of dry. The next plate came out juicy and hot.
Overall, my complaints were small and picky. I'm not particularly a fan of heavy tomato-based BBQ sauce. The peach cobbler, to me, had more of a syrupy peach dumpling consistency than I prefer—I like it crusty with big, bready chunks.
Overall, it was a good time and the price was right.
Lionel, his roots firmly planted in the South, repeatedly stated that it tasted like Southern home-cooking. And I suppose that's the goal.
Location: 4500 Dodds Ave., Chattanooga, Tn. 37407
Hours: W – Sun. 11 am – 8 pm