Nestled on East Main Street in Chattanooga’s historical Southside district, the family-run Bluegrass Grill has been serving up breakfast and lunch since October ’07. Retired orthodox minister Jonas Worsham’s culinary journey has spanned more than 40 years, culminating in the opening of this restaurant.
55 E. Main St.
Chattanooga, TN 37408
6:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
6:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
An epic dining experience: world-class service, décor and menu options.
A superior dining experience: high-quality attributes you’ll want to come back for again and again.
A solid dining experience: great characteristics but also some minor issues.
A mediocre dining experience: may have a few good highlights but major flaws.
A terrible dining experience: stay far away unless it’s the only place left to eat to avoid starvation, and even then, question if it’s worth it.
Last Friday, I roamed into the Bluegrass Grill, not only looking for a flavor journey but also to see if Worsham would be able to make my taste buds sing.
Atmosphere and service
As I wandered in, the first sight that struck me was the mountainous mural painted on the back wall. The wood-crafted décor and bluegrass music playing softly in the background further added to this folksy, Appalachian feeling. The interior is relatively small, with only a few tables and a food bar area in the back.
There isn’t much space in the waiting area, either, and I’ve seen the line out the door, especially on Saturdays, so you may have to wait a bit depending on when you go. The table turnover seemed to be relatively quick, though, and on this Friday, we were able to snag a couple of seats at the bar after about 10 minutes.
There were only two people serving the whole restaurant, but they seemed to be keeping on top of things with us and other diners. Both servers were smiling and seemed to be having fun, and this pleasant service really added to my dining experience. The food came out in about 15 minutes, which was impressive for this packed house. With my view from the back bar, I could see Worsham powering out dishes to keep the busy service rolling.
The menu is comprised of mostly breakfast foods and some lunch selections with a fusion of Southern and Mediterranean influence. Although they are only open during breakfast and lunch hours, groups of 15 or more can reserve the restaurant for Worsham’s specially prepared five-course Greek dinner.
Not discounting the multiple meat menu options available for carnivores like myself, this menu had a plethora of vegetarian options, so I went all vegetarian with this review.
The first dish I sampled was the portobello mushroom hash ($8.25). This was a red potato hash with onions and spinach along with-obviously-portobello mushrooms. There is an option of either Swiss cheese or scrambled tofu to mix into the hash, and we went with the tofu.
As a vegan scrambled egg substitute, scrambled tofu cooked in this fashion with turmeric and cumin is pretty close, with the firmness of this tofu also similar in consistency to scrambled eggs. The turmeric is not only a major flavor component, but its vibrant orange-yellow hue also mimics the appearance of a yolk color to complete this egg doppelgänger.
I especially liked how the spices in the tofu mixed in with the rest of the hash as well. The red, skin-on potatoes were cooked to a delightfully soft consistency and nicely seasoned with garlic and onion on their own. The mushrooms, onions and spinach tagged this hash with refreshing earthy, green flavors to complement the spices in the tofu and potatoes, with the tomato slice adding some acidity to the party.
Next, I tried the “Joan Marie’s special” ($7.50), which was a three-egg omelet (there is also a lunch sandwich version) with spinach, tomatoes, Swiss cheese and herbed cream cheese. Joan Marie is Worsham’s wife, and they’ve opened four restaurants together, so I decided I’d go with her recommended dish from this vast selection.
The warm, creamy cheese blend oozed throughout the omelet’s fluffy egg housing, with the spinach and tomato perfectly harmonizing with the cheese’s accented herbal melody. The grits I had to the side added a creamy hominy harmony to this dish’s toe-tappin’ flavor composition.
There were also three Bluegrass Grill house sauces (also available for sale by the bottle): chipotle, garlic habanero and Smoky Mountain sauce. These were good sauces-in varying degrees of spiciness and sweetness-but the flavors in the food were so good I didn’t fiddle with them much.
The biscuit was made with an equal blend of white and whole wheat flour. The whole wheat added a rich bran element to the fluffy biscuit’s buttermilk flavor base, while also giving it a bit of a fiber boost. Worsham prepares these biscuits, in addition to all the Bluegrass Grill’s various baked goods, in-house in the wee hours of the morning.
I capped off this meal with another baked good-with emphasis on the “good”-by snagging a cranberry muffin ($1.50). Flavors of walnuts and tart cranberries reverberated in the muffin’s fluffy interior like a hammered dulcimer echoing throughout the Appalachians, evoking a sweet ballad from my taste buds.
I am giving the Bluegrass Grill 3 stars for a charming, family-owned establishment with high-quality dishes, a comfortable atmosphere and friendly, attentive service-and bonus points for the uncommon amount of vegan and vegetarian selections. Like the artfully crafted folk roots of bluegrass music, Worsham is bringing down-home flavors culminated from his cooking journeys to foods handcrafted with care.
Roman Flis is a wandering writer, focusing on Chattanooga’s food scene. You can find him at romanflis.com or Facebook and Twitter, or contact him at [email protected]. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.