Ruby Falls has opened a new café in the attraction’s historic castle.
The limestone castle, listed on the National Register of Historic Places for historic significance in tourism and recreation, was built in 1929 as a venue for social gatherings and welcome center for guests touring the Lookout Mountain cave system.
After a soft opening earlier this month, the Castle Café is now open daily with a seasonal menu, local craft beer and Chattanooga roasted fair-trade coffee.
Creation of the café involved restoring the first floor of the castle to reveal the original sizeable limestone fireplace anchoring the northwest interior wall. During the attraction’s earliest decades, the castle designed by Chattanooga master architect R.H. Hunt, featured a fashionable tearoom by day, and at night, an upscale restaurant providing private dining, live orchestra accompanied dinner-dances and according to accounts in area newspapers at the time, “the largest ballroom in the city.”
As the dinner-dance era gave way to emerging widespread preference for quick-service snack bars, the hospitality offerings at Ruby Falls followed suit. The expansive dining room was repurposed, and the rustic fireplace, which had been the centerpiece for dining at the castle, was resurfaced and eventually obscured by a flight of stairs and storage for more than 50 years.
“The design of the café celebrates the castle’s deep history as a social gathering place, bringing back the tradition of reconnecting with friends and family over an enjoyable meal at the castle, shares Ruby Falls CEO and President, Hugh Morrow. “The new café and restoration project merges Ruby Falls rich history with modern comforts and 21st century sustainability practices.”
Seasonal options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and lighter fare along with a rotating selection of craft beer and hard seltzer on eight taps from Chattanooga craft breweries are summer selections at the café. Local brews from Empyreal Brewing, Chattanooga Brewing Company, Naked River, WanderLinger and more are on tap. Iced and hot coffee features fair trade-certified coffee from local Signal Mountain roaster Mayfly Coffee.
Ruby Falls admission is not necessary to eat at the café. Guests may dine in or request food to go. Ordering online or at onsite kiosks make it possible to order in advance and have food ready at a selected time. Café seating is available inside the castle, and outside on the covered front porch with a view of the Cumberland Plateau.
“Mid-century style armchairs in front of the fireplace are a popular spot for enjoying coffee and sweets, and our made-to-order flatbread pizzas are already a guest favorite,” said Food and Beverage Manager Paul Naples. “Each season, the menu will incorporate new items, specialty foods, limited-edition desserts and drinks.”
Waste reduction is one of Ruby Falls’ five major environmental focus areas along with land use planning, renewable energy, water conservation and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Through the attraction’s two-year-old partnership with NewTerra Composting, the café’s organic residuals are composted, keeping food waste and compostables out of landfills.
The café is committed to using only 100 percent, plant-based compostable food packaging. Compost and recycling stations are provided in the café to encourage proper disposal.
The Castle Café is the latest element in the attraction’s multi-phase expansion plan set in motion with the 2018 completion of LEED certified venues at the park.
PGAV Destinations was selected to design the new café, bringing extensive tourism industry background in designing experiences at leading attractions across the globe, including UNESCO World Heritage Sites.