Big River Grille, Chattanooga TN

The best-known brewpub in this city is certainly the Terminal, but there’s another, larger restaurant in town with two locations. We haven’t tried the beers here yet, but we did go out for a very nice dinner one evening in November.

Big River Grille wasn’t on my radar at all; I was under the completely wrong impression that it was some large, regional chain of fern bars that competes with Applebee’s or Cheddar’s. In one sense, it does compete with those in terms of real estate. The first location opened right by the Tennessee Aquarium and the second by Hamilton Place Mall. I don’t know where I got the dimwit idea that it’s a big chain, but it’s only these two stores here, and a third in Lake Buena Vista FL. And yet it does have a very large corporate parent. It’s owned by the forty year-old Craftworks, which runs the small national chains Gordon Biersch, Old Chicago, and Rock Bottom. So it’s local, but not local, you see.

This did make a change from our usual strategy of locally-owned cheap eats, but I felt like mixing things up a little and going someplace a little nicer. While family-friendly, it’s a good place for a date night, or a small group. The seating is comfortable and relaxed, with a big fireplace and an army of really efficient servers. We were very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food. It reminded us of the Rotisserie Shop back in Kennesaw, a favorite place that we really enjoyed revisiting many times.

However, it started out a little disappointing. I was excited by the sound of an appetizer with fried calamari and jalapenos, two great tastes that should go great together. But the plate was very, very heavy on “crunchies,” little chunks of fried batter without any actual food in them. Sure, I’m cheap, but I’m not happy to spend eleven dollars on an appetizer and have about a third of it be trash.

Our entrees were much better. Marie ordered the flame-grilled meatloaf. She enjoys meatloaf a lot more than I do and was really happy with this, and the thick brown sauce. It was a bit of bad luck that we each got the same mashed potatoes and green beans with our meals and weren’t able to share, but on the other hand, the potatoes and beans were really good, and we did not want to!

I was really pleased with my order of brewhouse chicken. This comes with a “mushroom beer gravy” and some onion straws and I thought it was really delicious. It probably would have gone even better with one of their beer selections – they make six onsite – but perhaps we’ll try those some other day. For those of you with children, they have a pretty good menu for them, although our son just kind of let us down again by wanting a corn dog. Ah, well.

Other than the appetizer, this was a really good meal. With tip, it came to under $60 for the three of us, which is a little more than we might usually spend, but this was a nice little splurge at a very good and popular place. We arrived just before the crowd and there was a pretty good mob waiting for tables when we left, so the locals certainly know about this place and enjoy it. It’s worth making a reservation for a special occasion, and probably worth coming back to try their beer sometime soon.

Big River Grille
2020 Hamilton Pl Blvd
Chattanooga, TN 37421

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