Chubby’s Bar-B-Q, Chattanooga TN

I found an unassuming little barbecue place down on the decaying Rossville Boulevard corridor. It has a dedicated crowd of older customers who come for breakfast, meat-and-two specials, and some old-fashioned items like sliced beef.

Chubby’s Bar-B-Q, which opened in the 1980s, is not really on anybody’s radar. I’ve never seen much written about it, and the building, despite cute paintings of Angry Birds and other cartoon characters, is easily overlooked amid the detritus of this old chunk of US-27. But I had a pretty interesting lunch when I stopped in one Wednesday in early February.

The food wasn’t terrific, to be sure. I asked whether their beef was brisket or chopped, and was told that it was sliced. You don’t see this very often, do you? It’s only in the older places around the southeast, like the last Old Hickory House in Atlanta GA or Herb’s in Murphy NC. I recall that Tyson Ho once wrote about how some other, older places in central North Carolina offer it, but I can’t find that story anymore. Older customers seem to like it. It’s usually a leaner cut, and not as fatty.

I’m not a fan myself – it’s incredibly difficult to imagine anybody being a “fan” of meat so boring – but it seems to have its place in an older-skewing setting like Chubby’s.

This restaurant was crowded and the only people younger than me in the place were the servers and the woman who manages a nearby club and who groused with the regulars about troubles keeping her liquor license current and her dancers out of trouble.

This was one of the most upbeat places I’ve been in quite some time. I seemed to be the only person here who wasn’t a regular. Everybody else was grumbling in good nature with each other, conversations among old acquaintances and friends about everything under the sun, continuing from where they’d left off yesterday or the day before. I’ve always been a bit of an eavesdropper, but this was a standout experience. Lots of people here might have been unhappy about a whole mess of things, but they were happy to see familiar faces and happy to have the comfort of food they enjoyed before going back to their nearby jobs.

They told me that I should have ordered the baked spaghetti or the hamburger steak. Even though Chubby’s is one of the minority of places around Chattanooga that has a separate smokehouse next to the building, it’s evolved into more of a meat-and-two, or meat-and-three, with daily specials. They open at 5:30 in the morning, where I can imagine a different group of people coming in for biscuits and gravy. Different, but probably just as loyal, and just as happy to greet each other and pick up where they left off.

Chubby’s Bar-B-Q
3801 Rossville Blvd
Chattanooga, TN 37407

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