On any given day, you can go to breakfast at Bluegrass Grill or Niedlov’s Breadworks, grab barbecue and play a round of pingpong at Clyde’s or settle in to a nice dinner at Alleia, and you could find yourself in the company of a U.S. senator, biker, college kid, artist, tourist or longtime Chattanoogan.
Southside, once the urban center of industry in Chattanooga, came to be known for its abandoned warehouses and old buildings during the mid-20th century. Today, revitalization has filled the neighborhood with the art, culture, cuisine and entertainment that has come to define the city. With the 50+ businesses that pepper the neighborhood as proof, this once-desolate area is experiencing a second life.
Encompassing the land from Warehouse Row past Main Street, Southside became a nexus of renovations about 10 years ago. The area was identified and attractive because of the vast opportunity for growth and development. According to Kim White, of River City Company, the first strategy was to bring housing — affordable housing in particular — to Southside. Knowing that educational options would act as a draw, the company privately raised funds for Battle Academy, a magnet elementary school. Following this initiative, River City Company partnered with The Lyndhurst Foundation to bring life to Main Street. Local retailers and restaurants were recruited using façade grants and retail recruitment grants. Roughly $5 million has been invested in retail and housing efforts on Main Street. The seed was planted and organic growth was the result. “We have not had any incentives on Main Street for the past five years. What has happened since then is really amazing … with developers understanding there is a lot of demand and it is a very desirable place to live,” Kim shares.
So what makes Southside so desirable? The eclectic mix of art, entertainment, cuisine and people.
Art on Main Street
From North Shore to downtown and Southside, the civic spaces in Chattanooga have been given new life through public art, all of which showcases the array of local talent and celebrates the artistic and creative nature of the city. For Southside, the public art brings people to Main Street. As part of the program, Art on Main Street exhibits a collection of outdoor sculptures. In addition to the sculptures and murals you’ll encounter while strolling the streets, Main Street is also home to art galleries and studios. area 61 gallery is nestled between the Bluegrass Grill and Green|Spaces, and is home to a mix of works by more than 30 craftsmen and artists from Chattanooga and the surrounding area. Step inside to find handcrafted furniture, woodworks, fine art, jewelry, pottery, sculpture and more. The HART Gallery exhibits works crafted by members of the homeless population in Chattanooga. Inspired by the talent in the community, Ellen Heavilon supplies materials to the Community Kitchen, offers art classes and gives artists a place to sell their work. Alongside sharing art inside the walls of her gallery, Ellen opened green spaces and launched a revolving community mural project. Visit more members of the arts community during First Friday Chattanooga.
Striving to set the entertainment scene apart from the sounds of Nashville and the live entertainment of Atlanta, Chattanooga is marketing itself as an eclectic entertainment landscape. While the city’s Riverfront Park draws large crowds for annual events, including Riverbend Festival, 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival and Riverfront Nights, Southside’s venues offer more intimate settings. Track29, one of Chattanooga’s favorite venues, will relocate to the Chattanooga Choo Choo’s Centennial Theatre, and kick off 2016 with acts such as Chris Stapleton and Grace Potter. But Chattanooga and Southside’s, entertainment opportunities are not limited to music. Locals and visitors alike can enjoy laughs at The Comedy Catch (also located inside the Choo Choo), catch a game at Finley Stadium, jump at The Jump Park, take a tour at Chattanooga Brewing Company or host their own events at Loose Cannon and The Urban Lawn.
While downtown attractions, such as the Tennessee Aquarium and Creative Discovery Museum, attract family crowds that turn in as the sun goes down, Southside offers things to do after 5 p.m. Two hot spots for late-night activities are Clyde’s on Main and Southside Social. Clyde’s serves up sandwiches, smoked meats and other casual dishes, with a side of entertainment. Located in a renovated auto-glass warehouse (named Clyde’s Auto Glass), this establishment offers an atmosphere that is unmatched. Try your luck at the pingpong tables, take a seat at the bar to watch a game, jam to live music, sink into conversation on one of the leather couches or enjoy a beer on the indoor patio. Whatever you do, you will be doing it alongside a lively bunch of locals.
Found a few miles down the road on Chestnut Street, Southside Social is a game lover’s paradise. The boutique bowling alley, lounge seating, pool tables, skee ball, pingpong, shuffleboard, giant jenga, bocce ball court, horseshoes and corn hole could keep anyone entertained for hours. The 30,000-square-foot space also has three bars, restaurant seating and a cigar bar.
The selection of restaurants in the Southside neighborhood will satisfy any diner’s appetite, with the highest number of restaurants per capita in the city, Southside is a dining destination. Following cities across the country, Chattanooga has developed as a culinary hot spot that is inherently local. Regional flavors can be found in the dishes at Bluegrass Grill and Blue Orleans, while international flavors abound at Conga Latin Food and La Altena. And although Southside restaurants differ in cuisine and atmosphere, what many of them share is their appreciation for locally sourced goods. Products from local craft butcher Main Street Meats can be found at restaurants such as Easy Bistro & Bar, Beast + Barrel, St. John’s, 212 Market and Flying Squirrel. Another local supplier, Niedlov’s Breadworks, bakes homemade bread that can be found at Slick’s Burgers, Terminal Brewhouse, Tremont Tavern, Beast + Barrel and many more.
When you look at the establishments that have seen success, it can be attributed to the local restaurateurs. “That is the thing that makes Chattanooga authentic and unique: local,” Kim White says of the budding restaurant scene. Alleia, a rustic Italian restaurant, was thought up by Chattanooga native Chef Daniel Lindley in 2004, and became a reality when the doors opened in 2009. With seven types of homemade pasta, pizza cooked in a custom brick oven and simply grilled meat and seafood on the menu, people cannot help but come back for more. The restaurant is located in the old Harrington building, and was designed by Rodney Simmons of Revival Studio, located in Warehouse Row.
The FEED Co. Table & Tavern, which opened this year, is housed in the original building of the historic Chattanooga’s Seed-Feed Supply Co. And yet another old building has been transformed to house a local eatery: Urban Stack. This burger joint resides in the former Southern Railway Baggage Building, one of the oldest buildings in the city.
As illustrated by the conversion of historic buildings to renovated restaurants and Chattanooga’s warehouse district to Warehouse Row, it is not unusual to see the blending of old with new in Chattanooga’s Southside. The Chattanooga Choo Choo Historic Hotel is one historic landmark that is being positively impacted by Southside’s growth. The Terminal Station saw a grand reopening in 1973, and 42 years later, it is getting another face-lift. In addition to becoming home to entertainment venues, such as Track 29, the Revelry Room and Comedy Catch, the property is slated for the construction of a new hotel (estimated to be eight stories high) and new residential units. The property would not be complete without a local eatery; cue STIR.
STIR opened its doors last month and has seen a steady crowd ever since. Patrons keep coming back for the artisanal cocktails, the fresh oysters and the urban-contemporary atmosphere. Fletcher Thompson, STIR’s general manager, believes that the changes in Southside are breathing fresh air into Chattanooga. “Chattanooga is more than the riverfront,” he shares. “We are seeing a swing in where people want to be.” In conjunction with a great location, STIR serves up delicious fare and even better cocktails. The menu is comprised of Southern offerings, including raw oysters, scallop and shrimp white cheddar mac and cheese, a country-grilled pimento cheese and ham sandwich, and fabulous brunch items. Just as you will find in other parts of the neighborhood, STIR’s tables, booths and bar are always filled with a wide-range of individuals. And we can almost guarantee that everyone who is of legal age is sipping on one of their craft cocktails.
SB Tip: After your meal, walk across the street to the Hot Chocolatier for something sweet.
Where to Stay and Live
Although locals have seen Southside transform into the thriving neighborhood it is today, there’s no real end in sight for the construction. There are an estimated 1,500 rental units being developed, and that is just the beginning. As we have learned, the area is attractive for all walks of life. Those looking to make the move to Southside can anticipate an average monthly rental of $900 to $1,200 per month. A program through the city and county provides tax incentives for developers who keep 20 percent of their units eligible for residents making 80 percent of Hamilton County’s median income ($31,000).
If you are not looking to make a permanent move, consider staying at The Crash Pad: An Uncommon Hostel. This hostel is highly attractive for those looking to take advantage of Chattanooga as an outdoor destination. With The Crash Pad as their base camp, outdoor enthusiasts can experience climbing, biking, running and kayaking in the area. Lucky for those bunking at the hostel, Flying Squirrel Bar is just steps away. Travelers and locals alike head to Flying Squirrel to socialize, check out the rotating selection of local beers and snack on the late-night bar fare.
Take a trip to one of Chattanooga’s most dynamic neighborhoods and see just how cool Southside really is!
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