Try a Harvest Sipper on the solar deck at 212 Market.
The Studebaker dealership that once stood near the corner of Market and Second Streets was a victim of a decaying downtown Chattanooga. Yet the restaurant at 212 Market (an address which doubles as the eatery’s name) is part of what brought downtown back to life. When sisters Sally and Susan Moses decided in 1989 to open a restaurant at the location, they were ridiculed.
“They opened up just before the Aquarium did,” recollects General Manager Jesse Pyron, “and at the time they actually got a lot of press for being these pioneering risk-takers.” Pyron goes on to explain that the area was unsavory, to be polite…specifically, “you really didn’t want to leave your car unattended in this area.”
The risk paid off because after the Aquarium opened in 1992, more businesses began re-using old buildings and revitalizing the area. And 212 Market was there in the middle of it, already building a loyal clientele. “People gravitate toward the place,” explains Pyron, “Some people like it for the local food, some people like the place for ‘green’ aspects of it. Some people really like particular members of the staff, the wine lists...” In fact, Pyron says, there are nearly as many “regulars” as any place he’s seen.
Pyron credits a diverse menu that takes advantage of locally grown and raised ingredients in its meals, such as the special ribeye steak. “Our bison we get from Burton Brown, who has the Eagle’s Rest Ranch here in Georgia,” Pyron says.
Local farmers often show up at the back door with a bushel of this or a crate of that and the chefs delight in crafting a meal from the fresh ingredients they purchased. “A lot of people come here for the specials,” Pyron tells The Pulse. “We tend to run between four and eight chef’s special dishes every night. And they’ll be different every night.”
The restaurant also has an extensive list of entrees that are always available, such as the Coffee-crusted Duck Breast, which Pyron explains uses a little cumin and brown sugar in the crust as well to create a kind of “spicy-sweet” flavor. Served with sweet potato and corn hash and a peach champagne sauce, it’s a favorite of many.
Another crowd favorite is the Wild-caught Shrimp and Fall Mill Grits, which also adds Link 41 andouille sausage, black-eyed pea salsa and fried green tomatoes for an “upgrade” to the Carolina dish.
In the simplest way he can describe the fare at 212 Market, Pyron calls it “classical European preparations fused with Southern U.S. comfort food.” Many of the dishes are gluten-free and there are some vegan choices on the menu as well.
Desserts are abundant and delectable. Their signature sweet is a chocolate truffle cake (which is gluten-free) and there’s even a gluten-free crème brulée. There’s a sorbet cake that’s fat-free. For simpler tastes, there are the standards: peanut butter pie, cheesecake and bread pudding. An off-the-menu cake of the day and assorted ice creams and sorbets round out the confectionary. These sweets have become crowd faves.
Cocktails are also a top choice of 212 regulars. All common recipes are available as well as some “signature” drinks available only here. “We’re calling it a ‘Harvest Sipper’,” says Pyron, “It’s Jack Daniels’ Tennessee Fire, a little Tuaca and some local apple cider from Wheeler, Georgia, and we serve it warm.”
Such a toddy would be a welcome accompaniment to an autumn evening meal served on their beloved second-story “solar deck.”
Cafe tables line the deck, which has a beautiful view of the sunset over the mountains, the best view of downtown Chattanooga’s lights, and that very special downtown that 212 Market helped create 22 years ago.