Chattanooga Street Food: Fresh on Fridays

July 5, 2012 in Editorials

Did you know that Chattanooga has a street food scene? If you said no, you’re not alone….but it’s here, and it’s growing. Right now, the food trucks in Chattanooga are Southern Burger Co. (aka the best burger in Chattanooga), Taco Sherpa (Korean tacos & rice bowls), Famous Nater’s (sandwiches), and A Taste of Argentina (Argentinian, of course). Supplement that with Monkey Town Donut Company’s donut cart and Pure Sodaworks’ handmade soda cart, and you’ve got a true street food scene.

Right now, there are three main events at which street food is centrally located: the Chattanooga Market at First Tennessee Pavilion (Sundays, 11-4); Street Food Thursdays at Warehouse Row (11-2); and Fresh on Fridays at Miller Plaza (11-2). You can also find the food trucks at Nightfall and other special events, sometimes on their own, sometimes as a group.

When we went to Fresh on Friday, I decided to check out Taco Sherpa. I ordered one dak galbi (spicy chicken) taco and one galbi (pork marinated in sweet & spicy soy-based sauce) taco plus chips and salsa as a side. They also offer Korean banchan (pickled/fermented vegetables) but as I mentioned, I’m a pansy and I was afraid of the kimchi. My tacos came out quickly. They are served on double corn tortillas with cucumber, radish, cabbage, cilantro, sesame seeds, and sherpa sauce. The chicken is cut into large chunks and coated with the sherpa sauce, which is just a little spicy…you taste the chiles more than the heat. I liked it….but I liked the pork more. The pork was shredded/pulled pork and you could just taste the slow-roastedness of it. The sauce was perfect and all of the veggies really completed the flavor. I love corn tortillas and the tacos were great on them. The chips and salsa were….chips and salsa. I want to try the banchan…and I will, eventually. Taco Sherpa is a fantastic addition to Chattanooga’s street food scene. You can learn more about Taco Sherpa at their website, http://tacosherpa.com, their Facebook page, or on Twitter (@[tacosherpa]).

While Philip liked the idea of Korean tacos, he was sucked in by the promise of the Famous Nater’s BBQ pork sandwich: 12-hour roasted pork with truckmade barbecue sauce, bacon, and cabbage slaw on a Niedlov’s bun. Yep. Pork on pork. Since Philip loves pulled pork and bacon about equally, he was pretty much fixated and couldn’t take his mind off that pork sandwich. Nater’s was a little late opening, so he had to wait a few minutes longer than I did. He got the BBQ sandwich and a bag of chips. There were a few lightly pickled vegetables also included with the sandwich, along with the huge stack of pulled pork in sweet sauce and a thick layer of red cabbage slaw. The roasted pork was perfectly tender and the sauce was just right, although Philip commented that he couldn’t really taste the bacon very much. I guess it was overpowered by the barbecue sauce. Oh well. The sandwich was still great and the Niedlov’s bun pulled it all together…quite literally. Famous Nater’s has been around since early 2011 and landed very close to the top in a national food truck competition – in their first year! You can find out more about Famous Nater’s on their website, http://famousnaters.com, their Facebook page, or on Twitter (@[famousnaters]). You can also call them at 423-596-5457.

Like I said above, we got our drinks at Pure Sodaworks. Handmade soda! Pure Sodaworks has a stationary location in Coolidge Park that just opened, and in addition to selling their drinks by the cup, they will start a bottling operation soon. They offer seasonal flavors sweetened with natural cane sugar! On this day, the offerings were root beer, ginger ale, hibiscus lemon, strawberry jalapeno, and lavender mint. I jumped at the lavender mint, and Philip decided on strawberry jalapeno. Both were heaven in a cup, a few squirts of syrup over pellet ice (rejoice!) and topped off with carbonated water. Mine was so fresh and herby tasting, not overwhelmingly minty or lavendery but a perfect balance of both. Philip’s was sweet and perfectly strawberry tasting with the peppery flavor of jalapeno and just a hint of spice…even my pansy tastebuds could handle. Get out of your Coca-Cola rut and give them a try! Pure Sodaworks is located at 181 River St., Chattanooga, TN 37405. You can call them at 423-299-3219. To learn more about them, check out their website, http://puresodaworks.com, their Facebook page, or Twitter (@[puresodaworks]).

Finally, as we left, we stopped by the Monkey Town Donut Company trailer. Monkey Town Donut Company is based in Dayton, Tenn., (get it? Monkey Town? As in the Scopes Monkey Trial?). Their donuts are tiny, one to two-bite donuts (one for Philip, two for me) coated with cinnamon and sugar. Oh, and they only have 30 calories each. Yep, 30 calories. Which means that a serving (six!) has less than 200 calories. Is that the perfect food or what? They were amazing! I’m completely enamored and told my husband that night that I wished we had some more. I’ll definitely be getting them again! You can call Monkey Town Donuts at 423-902-6685 or check them out on Facebook.

Street food seems to be the new “thing” in the U.S. and I am glad that the trend has made it to Chattanooga. I hope that the trend will eventually bring our fantastic food trucks into Hixson from time to time, but lucky for me, I’m going to have a lot more free time over the next couple of months to support local street food. I’ve even kicked around the idea of starting my own food truck or cart one of these days – who knows? In the meantime, I’m happy to eat food from these amazing chefs, cooks, and creators who make this food fresh for us Chattanoogans. I encourage you to do the same!

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Spinach Salad

Serves 2

When it’s too hot to cook, a salad can be a perfect meal. Made with fresh products from your local farmer, this salad is even better!

2 eggs, boiled

3 strips cooked bacon, drippings reserved

4-5 cups fresh spinach, cleaned and dried

2-3 teaspoons brown or Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon red wine vinegarsalt and pepper

3-4 ounces sliced mushrooms, optional

¼ red onion, thinly sliced, optional

Pour warm bacon drippings into the bottom of a bowl. Add mustard, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk to combine. Add spinach (and mushroom and onions if using) and toss to coat. Divide between two bowls and top with sliced or chopped eggs and crumbled bacon.

Mojito Bars

One of my favorite treats is lemon squares. Recently I was inspired to combine two of my favorite flavors, lime and mint, to make this delicious mojito bars.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup packed brown sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

½ teaspoon dried mint, lightly crushed

4 large eggs

1 ½ cups sugar

6 tablespoons flour

½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice

Zest of one lime

¼ to ½ cup mint leaves

Powdered sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×13 pan or line the bottom with parchment. Zest a lime into a small bowl and set aside. Juice enough limes to get ½ cup of juice (I used 2). Place the mint leaves into the lime juice and use a spoon, reamer, or other tool to agitate the leaves and get as much of their oils out as possible. Set aside while you make the crust.

In a stand mixer, cream together the butter, ¾ cup granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour, salt, and mint, then beat again on low until all ingredients are incorporated. Press into the prepared pan and bake for 18-20 minutes until lightly browned.

While the crust is baking, whisk the eggs and 1 ½ cup of sugar together until pale and slightly thickened. Strain the lime juice through a fine mesh strainer into the bowl with the lime zest, then pour into the egg mixture along with the 6 tablespoons of flour. Mix until completely combined.

When the crust is done, pour the egg/lime mixture over. Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned around the edges and set in the center. Cool completely, sprinkle the top with powdered sugar, and cut into squares before serving. Store in the refrigerator.

By Mary Haymaker, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Mary Haymaker is an exceptional education teacher by day, food writer and photographer by night. She has lived in the Chattanooga, Tenn., area her entire life and spends her nights and weekends trying new recipes, taking photos of food, reviewing restaurants, and writing about all of it on her blog, http://chattavore.com. You can email her at chattavore@gmail.com