Remembering the Jolly Ox / Steak & Ale Restaurant

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - by Harmon Jolley
Former Jolly Ox / Steak & Ale building grills in the afternoon sun at 5751 Brainerd Road.
Former Jolly Ox / Steak & Ale building grills in the afternoon sun at 5751 Brainerd Road.
- photo by Harmon Jolley

In the 1970’s, if dinner-and-a-movie was your evening plan, Brainerd was a likely destination.   Whether your plans called for “Live and Let Die” at the Brainerd Village, “American Graffiti” at Eastgate, or “Walking Tall” and "Soylent Green" at the Showcase, you could have dinner prior to the movie at any of a number of Brainerd restaurants.  Beginning in 1973, many chose the Jolly Ox, later renamed Steak & Ale.

The Jolly Ox opened with a preview champagne party on June 24, 1973 at its 5751 Brainerd Road location.  The June 25, 1973 Chattanooga News-Free Press reported that hundreds responded to invitations to “journey back in time to the 16th century"  to experience the atmosphere of an old English pub.  According to the November 5, 1982 News-Free Press, the design was modeled after the movie “Tom Jones.”

The new restaurant included five dining rooms and glowing fireplaces.   Windows were made of the bottoms of glass bottles.   English art was displayed throughout the restaurant.   The wait staff dressed in costumes of old England.

Steaks were shipped in fresh from a Texas supplier.  Each waiter carried a cleaver in a leather pouch, and the blade listed the menu of various steaks, and marinated chicken and shrimp.  Your dinner-and-a-movie date was affordable at the Jolly Ox, for dinner prices ranged between $3.65 and $6.45. 

The Jolly Ox was one of sixty restaurants operated by Steak and Ale Restaurants of America, Inc.  So, why not just call it Steak & Ale?  In 1973, a Tennessee state law banned the usage of “ale” in a restaurant’s name.  Many laws of this type date to the era of Prohibition and its aftermath.  I recall that South Carolina, where my uncle once lived, mandated that liquor stores have no outside signage other than a bulls-eye target.   

The law was changed by 1979, and the sign on Brainerd Road was changed from Jolly Ox to Steak & Ale.  Your dinner-and-a-movie bill had increased by then, according to the October 26, 1979 Chattanooga Times, with king’s cut prime rib going for $10.45.

The local Steak & Ale was still listed in the city directory as late as 1997.  However, many Brainerd dinner-and-a-movie businesses had relocated to the area of the new Hamilton Place mall.  By 2000, Christopher’s was listed as a restaurant that replaced Steak & Ale.  Changes at the corporate level affected the Steak & Ale chain nationally.  In 2008, the S&A Restaurant Corporation filed for bankruptcy.

Today, Bud’s Sports Bar operates in the former Steak & Ale building.

If you have memories of the Jolly Ox / Steak & Ale, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.  I will update this article with some of your memories.

 

Memories Shared by Readers

Funny that you write about this restaurant..I have often thought about the wonderful brown bread they served along with their entrees.. Any ideas on reproducing it?

 


Signal Mountain Genealogical Society Meets March 5

Wayne Shearer’s World War II Memoir, Part 9: Finally Getting A Taste Of Flying!

Picnooga Kicks Off 5th Year With 5 Rare Photos Of 1890s Chattanooga


The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society will meet at 1 p.m. on Tuesday , March 5 , at the Walden Town Hall, 1836 Taft Highway. Refreshments will be served followed by a brief business meeting ... (click for more)

(Editor’s Note: Dr. Wayne Shearer, 94, is a retired optometrist and retired colonel from the U.S. Air Force Reserve now living in Hixson. In his early 90s, he decided to sit down and write from ... (click for more)

Five rare views of Chattanooga recently surfaced and were acquired by Picnooga, a local history project. Each image was taken in the early 1890s from a position on Cameron Hill by an amateur ... (click for more)


Memories

Signal Mountain Genealogical Society Meets March 5

The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society will meet at 1 p.m. on Tuesday , March 5 , at the Walden Town Hall, 1836 Taft Highway. Refreshments will be served followed by a brief business meeting and program. The speaker for the day will be Amy Petulla, the owner and founder of the Chattanooga Ghost Tours. She will present an exciting, fun, and chilling program entitled, "Haunted ... (click for more)

Wayne Shearer’s World War II Memoir, Part 9: Finally Getting A Taste Of Flying!

(Editor’s Note: Dr. Wayne Shearer, 94, is a retired optometrist and retired colonel from the U.S. Air Force Reserve now living in Hixson. In his early 90s, he decided to sit down and write from memory and a few records he still possesses his recollections of going through Army Air Corps pilot training at several bases in the United States during World War II. A lifelong writer, ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Waggoner Pleads Guilty To 2nd-Degree Murder In 2016 Death Of Bradley Aaron Powell, Whose Body Was Found On Lookout

The trial of the Chattanooga man accused of killing Bradley Aaron Powell in 2016 was supposed to begin Tuesday. Instead, 24-year-old Cody Waggoner entered the Marion County Courthouse in Jasper and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Mr. Powell’s death. He was sentenced to 38 years in prison, and taken immediately to the county jail to begin that incarceration. ... (click for more)

Man In His 20s In Critical Condition After Shooting At Hixson Apartment

A man in his 20s was in critical condition after a shooting at a Hixson apartment complex on Tuesday afternoon. The incident happened at River City North Apartments in the 3800 block of Hixson Pike. The victim was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. (click for more)

Opinion

Heavy Rains Are Coming In The Next Few Days

Please remember to check on folks that are vulnerable which includes the elderly and homebound. With expectations of up to 7 inches or more of rain, we may see flooding in areas that rival those of the past. As Chief Roddy told me this morning, be proactive, not reactive. Pack for an extended stay at work or someone's house. Be ready with extra food, water and blanket in your ... (click for more)

The $500,000 Tax Money Giveway

Mayor Berke, On September 5, 2017, you asked and were granted a 22-cent property tax increase for city government operations and a capital fund. At the meeting, the City Council approved your proposal for the property tax increase of 22 cents per $100 of property assessment. As a result, every business, home owner, and property owner had one-month notice that their local property ... (click for more)