One of my favorite sandwiches in town is a treat called the Space Rocket, and it’s on the menu of a really popular deli with a long history.
Three weeks ago, I wrote a little story about Firebox Grill, which left me disappointed, but curious to try its “parent” restaurant, Glen Gene Deli. I’m glad to say that my son and I did take the little drive up TN-153 to have lunch here and I enjoyed the experience much more than I did our trips to Firebox.
It was just the two of us on this Sunday trip. Earlier in the week, we’d gone back to Atlanta and just about cleaned out the last of the stuff we’d moved into a public storage unit, leaving Marie one final turn to get the remainder. I’d taken the girlchild down to stay with friends and Marie was bringing her back. So my son and I motored across the dam on 153 – it’s a really pretty part of the drive – and got to Glen Gene more than forty-five minutes after they opened, but the place was so dark that I initially thought their website was wrong and they were closed.
I didn’t think that for long. The after-church mob that filled this place completely filled it. If you’re planning for a quiet meal here, Sunday at noon isn’t the time to do it. This is also where all the babies come to scream. Moms and dads were walking tantrum-throwers over their shoulders around the outside of the building like a conga line from a childfree millennial’s worst nightmare. We’ve been there many times ourselves, but not with quite so much company.
The most popular sandwich at Glen Gene is the Space Rocket, which comes with ham, salami, cheese, and cole slaw. Nobody could tell me how it got that name, but plenty of people order them. I thought it was terrific. Hands down, this is one of the best sandwiches in town.
My son ordered a burger, of course, and he swears up and down that it’s better than the burger at Firebox Grill, although, only being five, he’s a little unsure about how to describe how it’s better. Both restaurants have a pretty reasonably-sized topping bar for guests to dress their burgers, and the crowd on Sundays means there’s a crush by the counter and a long line to get tomatoes and lettuce.
The Glen Gene chain was purchased by the Issa family in 1978. At its peak, there seem to have been six or seven locations, but now only this one remains. Chattanooga is packed with places to get sandwiches – another one of those will get the spotlight in our next chapter – but this seems to be one of the best in town. It’s probably a little far away for us to become regulars, but I’m glad we came up here for the good lunch, and to see the crowds and hear the cacophony.
Glen Gene Deli
Hixson, TN 37343
Other blog posts about Glen Gene:
You can see all the restaurants that we have visited for our blog on this map, with links back to the original blog posts. It’s a terrific resource for anybody planning a road trip through the southeast!