1885 Southern Coastal Grill is a quaint little restaurant located in the heart of St. Elmo off of Broad Street, an area on the up-and-up. The “new” North Chattanooga, if you will (according to some people). We walked up to a patio full of people sipping cocktails with empty plates sitting in front of them enjoying the sounds of the bluegrass music coming from the live band that changes on a regular basis.
We’ve arrived early (purposefully and like always) and found a spot at the bar to sit and enjoy a drink while waiting for the rest of our party to walk through the door. For him, an Absolute and tonic. For me, a glass of the Tempranillo (a red wine from Spain), which didn’t make me swoon.
The inside was casual with a slightly rustic feel to it and a small number of tables; a few of which were full, but most everyone was outside enjoying the beautiful Fall weather.
Our party finally arrived and we were seated inside because the party at the table we called ahead for stayed to enjoy the music, but we were close enough to the patio to be able hear it anyways. Drinks were soon ordered, which took too long to arrive…I couldn’t tell if the bar or wait staff was at fault…
Our waiter explained the special of the evening…a farm-raised catfish pan-fried with creamed corn and red pepper relish. Even though it sounded good, no one at the table ordered it.
The rest of the menu was simple. Unoriginal, really. Shrimp and Grits…Steak Frites…Salmon with a lemon and herb compound butter…It also had a few grammatical and spelling errors (‘expect’ in place of “except” and grilled bread basmati rice, which I’m pretty sure doesn’t exist). Small errors to some, but to me it means a lack of detail. Detail is vital for the success of a restaurant…
We started with the Pimento Cheese and Fried Okra. The okra was perfectly fried and well seasoned. The pimento cheese had a brine-y aftertaste, which led me to believe the pimentos came from a jar. It’s just as simple to roast your own, in my opinion. The overall thought was that the starter was just okay.
When it came time to order our entrees, I went with the Shrimp and Grits. I’m a sucker for this particular dish—it must be the Southern girl in me. Other entrees ordered were the Shrimp and Crawfish Ètouffèe (spicy, but good), the Pork Chop (no complaints), the Steak Frites (cooked and seasoned well), the club sandwich (hard to mess up), and the Fried Flounder (enjoyed very much).
I was particularly confused by the lack of pork in my Shrimp and Grits. Traditionally, there is Andouille sausage or Tasso ham to give it a little bit of smokiness and a kick—it’s something I missed in their version. They say they have “Authentic Coastal Cuisine”, but I have a feeling the people of Charleston, South Carolina would disagree.
Other than that, the sauce was bright and well seasoned and the grits as creamy as they should be, but the shrimp were slightly overcooked. I could have done without the fried caper garnish.
All-and-all, the food was okay. There were no complaints, but no one was “wow-ed” either. This is something I’ve come to expect from Chattanooga restaurants, which is a shame.
A good atmosphere and great company made the experience memorable—the food didn’t take away from it, but it didn’t add to it, either. I would recommend that people try it, nonetheless. It’s a fun atmosphere in an up-and-coming part of town. So, Chattanoogans and visitors alike, go out and enjoy yourself. You only live once, after all.