Sugar’s Ribs, Chattanooga TN

I started visiting friends up in Nashville a little over ten years ago now, and so I’ve seen a particular building off I-24 in Chattanooga on the way home many, many times. It was a breakfast place for ages, but in 2007, it became Sugar’s Ribs, and the combination of neon and a great big sign proclaiming the Big Time BBQ available therein made the place irresistible.

Marie and I are not really versed in the restaurant scene in Chattanooga – I can name just three other places that I’ve tried – but until somebody convinces me otherwise, Sugar’s is our favorite restaurant in town, and a fine destination, should the road to Nashville or Knoxville or back home see us in the city at mealtime. Chattanooga is unfortunately inconveniently placed for traveling foodies like us. As it is ninety minutes from Atlanta and just about two hours from those other destinations and all the great restaurants they have to offer, it’s kind of difficult to schedule a mealtime stop here!

On Saturday, we had business in town, so we drove the ninety minutes up there in the company of a daughter who discovered that she had forgotten (a) her cell phone, (b) the ear buds to her portable DVD player and (c) her purse. It’s amazing how an eleven year-old girl will make everybody else on a road trip regret her poor memory and organizational skills. We were relieved when we finally got to Chattanooga.

Sadly, our favorite server was not present on this visit. There’s this one woman who is a complete trip: a sassy, exuberant, very loud lady who seems to love her job more than anybody else loves theirs’. She has a little spiel about the five different sauces which is just full of “honey” and “sugah” and “Mmm-hmmm!” She really brings extra character to a place which has plenty to spare. The view from the patio is truly wonderful. While you’re eating, you can look out over the sprawl of downtown Chattanooga and the mountains beyond, and the goats beneath you. This is the only restaurant, to my knowledge, that employs a staff of goats to keep the grass on the hilly slope tidy. After you finish your lunch, you can take your corncob outside and feed them.

Unfortunately, Sugar’s location on the side of a hill makes it a little difficult to photograph the restaurant unless you drive somewhere else to do it, as the parking lot is on the side of the building. Marie and I have taken a few snapshots from the car on the interstate; these are never satisfactory. You blog visitors will just have to make do with the lunch picture instead.

At Sugar’s, you can order sandwiches in two sizes, or build a plate from a large menu of differently priced sides. This time out, I got two small sandwiches – pulled pork and smoked sausage with a very neat whiskey glaze – with a bowl of awesome chili and grilled okra. Marie had a large pork sandwich with corn, and this was more than enough to fill us. More than an hour later, we stopped by a Bi-Lo on our way out of town and were still so stuffed that we voted against some roasted corn some fellows were cooking up in the parking lot.

Sugar’s owners also run two other restaurants in the area. The Boathouse, an oddly long drive away from downtown on the banks of the Tennessee River, is very satisfying. Well, it feels long if you’re completely unfamiliar with the area and trying to find it at night, anyway. Their third restaurant is the renowned Canyon Grill, over the border in Dade County, Georgia, and we have not tried it yet. Although, looking over their menu, that really seems like a mistake that Marie and I need to rectify one day soon.


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