Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Going home to find a new city

Last week Tim and I spent 5 days in Chattanooga, where I grew up. While we were there, I realized that the city has changed a whole lot since I left for college in 2003. When I was in high school there were three places my friends and I would choose from in the area we'd hang out, and every Friday or Saturday night downtown was spent at a movie at the Bijoux (which doesn't even exist anymore...am I that old?).

There are so many new restaurants, fitness studios, boutiques, and health food stores that it made me feel like I was visiting a new place! I haven't in the last four or five years really gone home when it wasn't a holiday where most of the time was spent at different family member's houses for Christmas or Thanksgiving meals. This non-holiday visit gave me the opportunity to see the city in a different light.

I wanted to share a few favorite eats that I discovered while we were there, because I'm going to do a different post about working out while traveling and what options there are. We tried three new places while we were there and also went to another new(er) place that we had been to on a previous visit.

Our first stop was at Urban Stack, which is a burger restaurant. Creative burgers seem to be the trendy thing right now, and my parents wanted to try this place they hadn't been to before. We started with the fried garbanzo beans and pickle platter. Both were delicious, and the spicy pickled vegetables were definitely unique. What I wanted to recreate at home, though, were the garbanzo beans. I'm sure there's a way to make them in the oven instead of a fryer.
 
And as though the new restaurants aren't enough, Chattanooga has even expanded the number of local breweries it has. I got the local sampler of beers from around the Chattanooga area, and while I won't long for any of them while I'm down here in Tampa, it was fun to try the local flavors.
I got the steakhouse burger with bacon, barbeque sauce, cheddar, and an onion ring on top, and in some attempt to be healthy went with the cucumber and black eyed pea salad on the side. I'm not sure what about the burger made me think I should worry about whether the side was healthy or not, but the burger was fantastic. I ate it all and wanted another one immediately. The side wasn't anything special, and I wouldn't order it again. It lacked flavor, though it might just have been overpowered by all the flavors of the burger.
 
For lunch one day we met up with a girlfriend from high school and her new (3.5 week old) baby. I forgot to take a picture of us or the restaurant we went to, but Taco Mamacitas is the restaurant that we had been to before, so it wasn't new to me. I got a salad, which was delicious as always. Then, because we still had gossip to catch up on, we headed over to Milk and Honey, a gelato and coffee shop just a few doors down. I instantly fell in love. Tim got gelato, and I got a cookie and a coffee, and I talked intermitently about how I wanted to open something like it in Tampa.

It's small and cozy with only two booths, counter seating, and an outside bench, but they serve breakfast, a brunch of sorts, and sandwiches, though most people seemed to just drop in for what they wanted and then head out again. The Americano that I had was delicious, and the thumbprint/sugar cookie was only 40 cents. They are owned by the same family that opened Burger Stack. Why weren't these things here when I was a Chattanooga resident?
Though not a Chattanooga thing, I couldn't resist mentioning that my mom ordered live Main lobsters to cook at home. I'm going to shock you all by saying that lobster isn't my seafood of choice, but these were tasty; we had fun making a night of it!
I think my favorite new restaurant that we visited, though, may have been The Flying Squirrel. It's more of a bar with food, but it's a far cry from being "bar food". It's presented in a tapas style, so you get to order at least a couple things that look tasty from the menu.
I had the house ravioli, which were very good and completely made from scratch, and the bison balls, which were tasty but not served as warm as I would have preferred. I still ate all of both of the dishes. The ambiance was really low key and fun, and the building is built with a lot of glass and industrial materials. My favorite part was the beer that I had. It was the Abita Strawator, a seasonal combination of their Strawberry and Andygator, and it was delicious in every way. It may be my favorite beer of recent recollection, and I'm hoping to stumble upon it here in Tampa sometimes soon. Had we not been heading to Atlanta to catch a flight I would have had another.
We had a fabulous trip and enjoyed so much of what Chattanooga has to offer that we haven't experience in the past. Tim noted that he really enjoyed himself, and we look forward to going to try a few of the other new restaurants and offerings that Chattanooga has come up with recently.

Do you still live in the city you grew up in? Has it changed a lot in the last few years?
When you go visit home or where you grew up do you like to try new things or go to your old favorites?

28 comments:

Crystal said...

I (obviously) do not live in my hometown.

Kansas City has tremendously changed in the 6 years since we've been gone....for the better. :)

When we go home we have a few favorite places that we MUST go to. Then we like our friends to show us around to the hip and trendy places. haha! Which ended up being awesome this last go around because we discovered an amazing vegan restaurant hidden amongst all the KC BBQ places.

I love the photos. Your burger photo made me crave red meat and bacon. ha!

Carson Phillips said...

I still live in the city where I grew up and it has changed tremendously. Growing up, anywhere inside the city (Birmingham), was way too dangerous to go. For the past 5ish years there has been a huge surge to clean up the city and make urban living the new thing. It's crazy that places I would've NEVER gone when I was younger are now where everyone hangs out.

Jess said...

Cooking Light has a great recipe that involves healthy fried chickpeas/garbanzo beans http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/chickpea-arugula-pita-sandwiches-50400000127551/
My friend recommended it and says she ends up eating a whole bunch of the beans on their own as a snack.
Long time reader, first time commenter since I don't have a blog myself...

Emily said...

Great post. The city I grew up in (Cordova TN outside of Memphis) had changed drastically since I was a kid and since I moved in 2001. It is still odd, yet fun to go back and see how it is now and remember how it was.

Meghan said...

You have me convinced that a trip to Chattanooga is in order. Mike and I have been talking about a road trip to Nashville/Memphis anyway, so why not? We're actually moving back to the city I grew up in, but unfortunately, it's not nearly as cute as your city:)

Allie said...

That coffee shop looks cute, I love the name! I actually live just a couple streets away from the house I grew up in. I remember saying as a teenager that I would never live here. It's a super small town and everyone knew everyones business. But now as an adult I cherish the small town charm. I coach at the high school I graduated from so it's fun to see the girls grow up just like I did. Looks like you had a great trip!

Lauren said...

That lobster looks so delicious!!!

Ashley said...

wow. so much yummy food! I love vacation for that reason solely. looks like a good trip to your ever changing hometown ;)

PS - congrats on the tri!

Karen said...

I haven't lived in my hometown since high school and it has changed a lot. Mostly, the town has died. It is nice to see your community is thriving! My hometown does have one fantastic coffee shop and ice cream place that I love to revisit. Mostly, I enjoy the outdoor stuff in my hometown that I never took enough advantage of fully in my youth.

Nichole said...

I never know what to consider my hometown because we moved to Florida when I was ten, so technically I'm not from here, but this has been my home longer than Buffalo, NY was....I love all the places your hometown has added; makes ME want to visit since I have never been ;)

Rachel said...

I sort of live in my hometown... I was born and lived for the first 12 years of my life in Birmingham and then we moved to Cullman. It has grown tremendously, especially since we went wet.

meghan said...

Thank you so much for commenting and leaving me this recipe! I'm definitely pinning and trying it out!

meghan said...

I LOVED it. It was probably the thing that most inspired me to write this post in this point of view. We stayed for over an hour just sitting, and I just kept talking about wanting to open one. I always said I wouldn't live in Chattanooga too, but now I can see myself more likely to move back there than I ever thought. It's definitely small town and everyone knows everyone. That's the one part that I don't want to get back into.

meghan said...

It was. I'm not a huge lobster person. I'd rather have shrimp or scallops, but this was definitely good.

meghan said...

Thanks Ashley! Do you ever go up to Chattanooga?

And thanks for the congrats! It was a great experience.

meghan said...

That's too bad. Where are you from? I am glad to see Chattanooga doing so well. I'm interested to hear that you didn't do much outdoor stuff when you were younger. I didn't at all, so to see all the options in Chattanooga was eye opening as well.

meghan said...

That's tricky. Right around that time would make it confusing as well. Chattanooga is a great little city. It you ever make a trip to Atlanta you can make an overnight in Chattanooga and hit up a few of the good spots.

meghan said...

Of all the times I've been to Tuscaloosa and to visit my grandparents who live about 45 minutes away from Bham, I've never actually spent time in Birmingham so I know almost nothing about it.

meghan said...

It's cool that you live in the Chicago area now! I guess it seems like many of people's small towns are growing and changing.

meghan said...

My sister went to Alabama for undergrad and Law School, and my dad grew up in a town 45 minutes outside of Birmingham, but I've never spent a lot of time in Birmingham. It's a city I'd definitely like to visit. Where in Bham did you grow up?

meghan said...

So cool that you've had a similar experience to what I have. And just looking at the pictures myself makes me want to eat it all over again.

Jamie said...

Your city has really changed!! I love all of the places that you went to, and that you had Maine lobster (since I'm from Maine and all). But yea, I'm going to shock you too and say that lobster isn't even something I eat, being from Maine AND my dad is a lobsterman.

My area where I am from in Maine has changed a lot in appearance, and I don't live there anymore. Whenever Mike and I go visit something is always different, whether it be how the roads are routed, a new restaurant, a new store, etc. Not too much has changed though, overall, and it is nice to go to familiar places, but we always try something new too!

Carson Phillips said...

I grew up in a small little town called Kimberly, about 25 miles north of the city. Now I live in another small Mayberry-ish town north of the city called Mt. Olive, though a little bit closer, at around 15 miles out. I still work at a hospital in the city, so I live close enough to stay within a 20 minute commute.

Jess said...

Let me know what you think!

Cecilia @ MommiesRun said...

Yep, I still live in Memphis! Well, actually we now live in a suburb but close enough. It's changed a lot since I was younger though. We have a lot of great restaurants now too but my favorite thing is the greenway and greenline that we have now. Memphis is definitely trying to become a healthier city!

Amy @ A Balancing Act said...

I love Chattanooga! My mom was actually born there and I still have some aunts and uncles that live there! I was there last back in 2007 (not including my drive through last October!) so it's definitely been a while! Such a fun and clearly growing city!

Anonymous said...

Oh I love Chattanooga! I just moved up north for school, but 'noog will always be my home! It has progressed incredibly in the last few years. It's a beautiful up and coming town with the perfect mix of mountains, city, and water. I love chatt with all my heart and I'm so glad you got to experience it! PS: isn't urban the greatest? I could eat there forever

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