I'll never forget my grandmother's “cat head” buttermilk biscuits. I would sit at her Formica kitchen table, with my legs swinging back and forth in an almost therapeutic rhythm while I savored every soft, buttery bite. Of course, it would be untoward for any true Southern biscuit to be seen in public without at least a modest dressing, so there would always be a can of sorghum syrup and a jar of Tupelo honey in the center of the table. Although I loved sorghum syrup, there was something special about mixing a little room temperature butter with that sweet Tupelo honey and then “sopping” the mixture up with a warm biscuit.
Although Granny's biscuit recipe can never be duplicated (and god knows, many have tried) I recently was able to relive that biscuit, butter and honey moment at the beloved Asheville, NC restaurant, Tupelo Honey. Biscuits were brought to the table as soon as we were seated and I immediately went into action. They were lightly crisp on the bottom, warm and pillowy in the center and had a hint of tanginess that you only get with a real buttermilk biscuit. It's hard to find a good biscuit and these are very, very good biscuits.
The good news, my fellow Chattanoogans, is that you don't have to drive to strange and unknown lands like Asheville or Knoxville to have your own Tupelo Honey biscuit bonanza. On September 16, Tupelo Honey will be opening its newest location in Warehouse Row downtown. I normally don't get terribly excited about the opening of a multi-location restaurant in Chattanooga, because their investment in the community is usually limited to begrudgingly paying their lease and taxes.
Tupelo Honey, however, is an exception. As of this writing, and before the first plate of Brian's Shrimp and Goat Cheese Grits have been served, Tupelo Honey has formed partnerships with local growers and suppliers through Gaining Ground, has become a sponsor of the Chattanooga Mobile Market, teamed with HCDE for “Chef Nights” to demonstrate healthy cooking and eating to students and parents, and is an active participant in the “Chef's Move to Schools” program to help stem childhood obesity. They are serious about community involvement and work hard to localize each location, from the décor to the suppliers—and the menu. For example, the Chattanooga store will offer specialty drinks found only here and will use ingredients unique to Chattanooga, such as a Benton's Bacon and Chattanooga Whiskey Manhattan and a Chattanooga Whiskey Mint Julip, as well as a selection of locally brewed beers.
Although there may be some minor differences, Chef Brian Sonoskus assured me that all of my favorite Tupelo Honey dishes will be on the Chattanooga, including the Not Your Mama's Meatloaf. This loaf of beefy goodness is made with grass-fed beef blended with bacon, then topped with rosemary, tomato and shallot gravy. Along with Chef Sonoskus's elevated versions of Southern comfort food, the menu offers stunning seafood dishes like the Chorizo Sea Scallops with Basil Cream sauce, a prime rib and beef short rib blend burger, rich soups, crisp salads, gluten-free options, and plenty of choices for vegetarians too.
Breakfast is served all day which means you can have bacon on demand . . . all day. Sure, they have omelets, breakfast pie, and even their signature Sweet Potato Pancakes, but I am especially jonesing for their Prime Time Breakfast Biscuit. This behemoth takes tender prime rib, caramelized onions, pimento cheese and an egg cooked omelet style and tucks them all inside one of those Ginormous Buttermilk Biscuits. You can, of course, eat some granola with vanilla soy milk while I sit—silently suspicious of anyone that can eat granola when bacon is available—savoring my biscuits, butter and Tupelo honey.