Ricky’s Restaurant on Fourth Avenue across from the East Lake Courts was a popular eatery for at least four decades maybe longer. The restaurant closed many years ago and the building has remained empty. Early Sunday morning the Chattanooga Fire Department responded to a blaze that gutted the vacant structure and left one firefighter with minor injuries. The cause of that fire is under investigation but authorities said it was a total loss.
For a long time the Raymond Hundley family served up delicious home cooked meals at lunch and early evening. I was told the name came from a family member. They made their desserts, which were a favorite of people like broadcasters Mort Lloyd, Harv Bradley, Buddy Houts, Luther Masingill, Jolly Cholly, Jerry Lingerfelt, Neil Miller, Jack Hatcher, Bill Schoolcraft, Chip Chapman and many others.
While a teenager the Hundleys' daughter Brenda would wait tables. Brenda was very popular among the customers and after her marriage to Tag Bailey she was elected to the Hamilton County Commission.
Businessman Jackie Mullins Sr. remembers throwing papers in the East Lake Courts. He said Mr. Hundley started the eatery in his garage. He said Mr. Hundley would fix coffee and hot chocolate for the carriers early in the morning. Mr. Mullins said Mr. Hundley was known as “Shot”.
Ricky’s Restaurant was a favorite of Bob and Gene Campbell, owners of Clark Brothers Furniture. Bob said, “Everything was good.”
Former City Councilman David Crockett said he went there often with other government leaders. Country style steak and mashed potatoes were a favorite.
Hamilton County School Board Member Joe Smith remembers the key lime pie.
Retired WDEF TV program director Doris Ellis fondly remembers the old gathering place. Ms. Ellis said “many friendships, many memories.”
When customers would enter they’d see the family table to the left. It would seat eight people and those from all walks of life would enjoy meat loaf, roast beef, baked ham, Southern fried chicken and a large variety of vegetables with homemade cornbread. You couldn’t leave without a slice of their homemade pie or cake.
This was where Luther’s Tuesday lunch bunch probably started. Radio broadcaster Luther Masingill was joined by Eye Ear Optical’s Jim Crittenden, Service station owner Clyde Crabtree, Insurance executive Arch Trimble, Radio personality Jerry Pond, Baylor Coach David Longley and many others. NFP editor Lee Anderson would also join the men occasionally. The restaurant was before the days of making pictures with your phone so I’ve been unable to find any photos.
I’m not certain what year Ricky’s closed but it left a large void among those who ate there several times a week. Luther would often remark, “No one fixed my pinto beans and green peas like the cooks at Ricky’s.”
For many the gutted landmark restaurant building holds a host of pleasant memories of meals with family and business associates. There were almost as many stories as you would hear at the local barber shop.
Former Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield summed it up, “Lunching at Ricky’s was 50 percent seeing and 50 percent being seen.”
Wouldn’t a slice of Ricky’s coconut cream pie taste good right now?
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