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A perfect meal can be found right on Lookout Mountain.
New American cuisine is as diverse and as eclectic as America itself. It’s a fusion of the best flavors, techniques and ingredients from Latin America, Asia, the Mediterranean and Europe. These are all assimilated into a unified menu of dishes that pays homage to classic American favorites, with innovative interpretations and inventive twists on dishes we typically refer to as American.
Many local restaurants have planted their flags in the spirit of New American cuisine, but few embrace this innovative fusion with the success and enthusiasm of Talus Bar and Grill. Located at the top of Lookout Mountain, this beautiful restaurant offers a modern twist on American classics with something for everyone, from the hard-to-please tween to the finicky foodie.
The restaurant is spacious, but welcoming; contemporary, but warm. The bar is separate from the main dining area and sports a very nice pool table, darts and leather appointments that are comfortable with a modern flair. Chef/owner Erick Wood hosts live music from local jazz and bluegrass groups, book readings and other events in the space on select evenings as well.
When we walked in the door, we were welcomed by a friendly server as well as some of Chattanooga’s best local art adorning the restaurant’s walls. While Wood is an avid art lover, his passion for food was evident as soon as we began to peruse the menu, which was divided into deceptively simple and typical sections such as appetizers, salads, burgers and entrées. A quick glance at the menu descriptions, however, revealed there was nothing typical about the food at Talus.
We decided to start our meal off with a drink and appetizer. Our server recommended Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whiskey, an all-Speyside vatted whisky that earns its description as a “triple malt” by blending malts from its neighboring distilleries, Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Kininvie.
I paired the malty, smoky essence of the Monkey Shoulder with a baker’s dozen of oysters on the half shell, while my partner had the “Talus Mule” (New Amsterdam vodka, lime and ginger beer) with Blue Crab Cakes. The house-made crab cakes with bacon-corn relish and remoulade could not have been a better match for the citrus bite of her cocktail and my oysters were bright, briny and a perfect start to the meal.
I had been told that any trip to Talus must involve eating their fish tacos. Like the classic Baja fish taco, Chef Wood dips thick-cut mild whitefish (they were using basa this particular evening) in a local beer batter and fries it to crispy perfection before placing it into a flour tortilla and topping it with finely shredded white cabbage, mexican crema, fresh avocado and house-made salsa fresca.
I am a fish taco connoisseur and these were some of the best fish tacos I have ever eaten. The fish was crispy and not at all greasy, the crunch of the cabbage, the creaminess of the crema and avocado, and the sweet bite of the salsa provided a beautiful stage for the mild, white fish. There were three of these beauties nestled in a convenient serving tray and I could have easily ordered another round, but my partner reminded me of the flatbread that was on its way for me to sample.
While she sat munching on her beautifully cooked, medium-rare, Double Bacon “Lucy” burger with its aged cheddar and American cheeses, smoked applewood bacon and bacon jam (yes, you get both bacon AND bacon jam) I was still preoccupied with my fish tacos and didn’t notice the flatbread that was making its way to our table.
I had assumed a flatbread on naan would be a dainty addition to our meal, but this was a 15-inch house-made naan, cooked crispy and topped with generous portions of sliced New York Strip, fresh mozzarella, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, horseradish aioli and drizzled with aged balsamic. This was a meal unto itself but we somehow managed to dispatch this savory, steakhouse-flavored flatbread in record time.
As we finished our entrées, the server came and offered a salted-caramel milkshake, basil cheesecake, or vanilla bean crème brûlée for dessert. In spite of our near gluttonous dinner display, we chose the vanilla bean crème brûlée because I can never turn down crème brûlée. It was creamy, sweet (but not cloying) and could not have been a better finishing touch to this wonderful meal.
As my partner and I made our way down Ochs Highway, long shadows sprawled across the valley and we silently enjoyed the view, contemplating our next visit to Talus. We will see you there again soon—very soon.