After 43 years in business, the employees of Red Bank’s Southern Restaurant hung up their aprons and retired their spatulas for-seemingly-the last time in October. However, a month later, former server Kim Hankins decided to take the reins and revitalize the establishment. I wanted to see what it was like now and if it still held the same Southern charm that it did before it was resurrected.
Kim’s Southern Restaurant
3324 Dayton Blvd.
Chattanooga, TN 37415
6 a.m.-2 p.m.
6 a.m.-8 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.
Atmosphere and service
My server was on the ball throughout the meal and had a vast knowledge of the food and the restaurant. She was a charming lady and extremely friendly, cracking jokes with all of her tables and the rest of the staff. The entire staff seemed to be having fun and enjoying being there, which made my experience all the better.
The restaurant is small but of an adequate size for a diner, and before their reopening, it was remodeled and freshly painted. The whole place had a fun, warm, welcoming ambiance.
I began with a steaming bowl of their beef stew ($4.50). This was a good stew, loaded with beef, potatoes, carrots, celery and tomatoes. The broth was rich with a heavy tomato tang. The stew had my taste buds simmering in preparation for the main entrées.
“Darlin’, it’ll be 20 minutes on the fried chicken,” my server had said while taking my order. The menu said the same thing, but she just reiterated to make sure I knew it was freshly fried and wasn’t going to be quick.
Although surprisingly not as well-known as some of the other fried chicken juggernauts around town, I think that Kim’s Southern Restaurant’s fried chicken is the best in Chattanooga-from the places I’ve tried so far. Bea’s chicken is certainly a local favorite, as is Champy’s and chicken from a few other places, but I’m telling you, this fried chicken rules the roost.
I had the two-piece white meat meal, consisting of a breast, wing and two sides ($7.49). I cut down into the breast, creating a crevice, and pulled it apart. There was a small reservoir of juice forming atop the breastbone with small rivulets dripping down on each side, gathering into the pool. And that, my friends, is juicy chicken.
The fried batter was thick and crispy, and each bite was accompanied with a loud crunch. The flavor was a savory blend of herbs and spices and not greasy. Both the breast and wing had plenty of flavorful, juicy meat on the bones, with steam rising from this hot chicken perfection fresh out of the fryer.
Next, I sampled their macaroni salad. The macaroni had a perfect al dente firmness and was accompanied with onions, celery and pimentos, all coated with heavy mayo. This tasted freshly made without everything sticking together and was extremely flavorful-although it could have benefited from sitting a bit to let the flavors further intermingle together. The Texas toast was thick and firmly grilled with buttery goodness.
The next dish I tried almost didn’t happen. I had arrived during the brief bridge between breakfast and lunch so that I could order from both menus, and they had a holiday breakfast special for $3.95. As my server was walking back to turn my order in to the kitchen, the lady behind the bar announced, “No more breakfast!”
“Nuh-uh, honey! My table already ordered the breakfast special,” my server told her. I was glad I did not miss this. It consisted of two eggs, bacon (or sausage), biscuits (or Texas toast or cornbread), gravy (or grits or oatmeal) and iced tea (or coffee). You can’t beat that for $4. The sweet iced tea had a clean taste with no hint of bitterness, with an extreme sugary sweetness without going overboard.
The eggs were fried perfectly over medium, with the whites fully solidified and the yolk a golden bubble of liquid treasure. We ordered the bacon crispy, and it was also perfectly cooked to our specification, with each firm, thick-cut strip staying together without crumbling apart.
The buttermilk biscuits were both fluffy and flaky. They tasted great on their own, but a bowl of steaming country gravy was nearby, so these biscuits’ fate of being drowned in this creamy concoction was close at hand.
For a breakfast dish, you can’t get much more Southern than biscuits and gravy, and Kim’s Southern Restaurant represents this tradition well. The rich, white gravy was loaded with breakfast sausage crumbles, their drippings giving a savory, slightly spicy onslaught to the flour and milk base, further intensified with ground black pepper. Because of the thickness of the gravy, it coated the biscuits rather than decimating them into a soggy mess.
I capped things off with a slice of their peanut butter and fudge pie ($2.75). All their pies are made from scratch, and the selection changes. So, if you are lucky enough to run across this pie there, you must try it. The thick peanut butter base topped with hot fudge and whipped cream was a rich dream, but not overly rich or sweet. It was just right, leaving us with smiles as we finished this fantastic meal.
I am giving Kim’s Southern Restaurant a strong 3 stars. Not only can you get the best fried chicken in the city here, their dishes are all freshly prepared, generously portioned and fairly priced. The fun, family vibe the staff projects is infectious, making you feel cozy and right at home. This is a down-home Southern establishment doing it the right way, and you will be hard-pressed to find a better bang for your buck.
Roman Flis is a wandering writer, focusing on Chattanooga’s food scene. You can find him at romanflis.com or on Facebook and Twitter, or you can contact him at [email protected]. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.