We spent a few days in Chattanooga, Tennessee recently to celebrate my birthday with a quick August getaway. Only a two-hour drive from Birmingham, Chattanooga has a sweet, quietly-rustic charm at the same time that it also exudes the on-the-river vibrancy that some larger river towns have. Chattanooga is also super vegetarian and vegan friendly!
It was Kenton’s inkling that it would be, because he knows about a huge Seventh-Day Adventist university in neighboring Collegedale, Southern Adventist University, whose dining hall is exclusively vegetarian & vegan. Many SDAs subscribe to these diets for religious reasons, so if you’re visiting a community with a large and active SDA presence, you’ll probably hit a vegetarian jackpot! That’s likely not the only reason Chattanooga caters to we veg folk, since it caters to visitors from all over the world, but Kenton’s inkling was right, in any case! We had some good eating over the weekend, so I’m going to share with you three of our best meals, along with a few must-sees.
Where to Eat?
Our first meal of the trip was at Cashew, a plant-based vegan cafe located near Coolidge Park. The cafe is cozy, and they have outdoor seating, too. We opted for indoors and sat at the bar, which doesn’t face a line of draft beer nozzles but stands off to the left of the restaurant giving a nice view of most of the place. The only drawback is that there wasn’t anywhere to sit my purse except on the counter (if you’re reading, I suggest hooks on the opposite side of or underneath the counter top!) After the meal we were too full to get dessert, but their dessert case featured the most adorable little donuts I’ve ever seen.
We seemed to have switched places, because I ordered the meatball sub and Kenton ordered the Buffalo Bowl. The meatball sub was hearty and exactly what I hoped for. The meatballs, made of walnuts, mushrooms, and quinoa, had a great texture and flavor and were soaked in marinara sauce. But it was the cashew cheese that stole the show. It’s really difficult to get hot (or cold, for that matter) vegan cheese to taste edible, let alone delicious, and a raw food experiment from several years ago made me develop an aversion to cashews. I was weary of it at first, but this place is known for its vegan cheese, and, you know, it’s called Cashew Cafe, so I thought I’d give it a try. It was so worth it. Perhaps I’m cured?
That said, Kenton’s dish was by far my favourite of the two–the baked buffalo tofu was firm and flavorful, and the brown rice was the perfect texture. Paired with pinto beans, carrots, kale sauteed in garlic, and dill ranch dressing, this bowl was the real MVP and Kenton was the best for not swatting me away when I begged for more tastes, “for research.”
If we hadn’t have been full, we might have ventured to the ice cream establishment upstairs, which also has vegan options, if you don’t or can’t do dairy.
What to Do?
Chattanooga’s Southern Belle Riverboat is a nice ride conducted by a well-rehearsed guide who, when you can hear him, offers up some really interesting facts about Chattanooga history and Tennessee River commerce. Unfortunately, I couldn’t always hear him, so I missed a few facts.
What I did hear was funny and enlightening, and I was especially intrigued by the history of Maclellan Island, the 18.8 acre wildlife sanctuary maintained by the Chattanooga Audubon Society. It’s a haven for the Great Blue Heron and Osprey. I saw a number of folks swimming and lounging on the beach–that’s my number one spot to visit the next time we go.
You can also get some nice shots of Lookout Mountain, another landmark I only saw from a distance but would like to visit the next time we head up to Chattanooga. Lookout Mountain was the site of a battle in 1863 that helped give Union troops control of Chattanooga during the Civil War.
If you can make it, I’d suggest the sunset tour! When you disembark, take a walk on Chattanooga’s lovely pedestrian bridge, which is also highly photographable from the boat ride.
The Walnut Street Bridge was erected in the late 1800s and is a must see, must stroll over attraction! Chattanooga certainly earns a win for its walkability. Wear your comfy shoes!
Stay tuned for the next post, which details more yummy Chattanooga excursions.