Main Street Meats | Steak and Burger Heaven in Chattanooga

Review by: Michael Stern

In a Reborn Neighborhood

Chattanooga’s Southside, once the heartbeat of booming city industry, puttered out and fell into typical urban disrepair. Now reborn, it shines as a fashionable neighborhood of art, culture, and cuisine. Main Street Meats — steak and burger heaven — is one of its culinary stars. Is it poetic justice or irony that this modern cafe’s devotion to values of butchery, mixology, and hospitality hearken back to an earlier era when craft mattered?

Beef & Whiskey

Step into the modest storefront and confront a glass case full of ravishing hunks of raw meat. Ogle filets mignon, ribeyes, and strips, bratwurst, chorizo, and thick-sliced belly bacon. Butchers cut them right here in the back room. All come from suppliers whose watchwords include pasture-raised and grass-fed, free-range and organic. Yes, this IS steak and burger heaven. Many customers come to buy groceries.

280 different kinds of whiskey crowd shelves behind the meat. You’ll know some; others are very rare.

Find a seat at a short counter, a communal table, or at one of a handful of two-tops and four-tops. Neither the staff nor customers dress up. Nobody needs to gild this lily. Eating at Main Street Meats is informal but not slapdash.

A Burger to Believe In

The kitchen prints a short paper menu at least once each day. It reflects what’s happening in the butcher shop in back. You always can eat steaks or sausages. The “local beef burger” is a constant. Butchers hand-pat a great palm of ground beef just enough that it holds together without feeling compressed. Cooked rare or medium-rare, it oozes savory juice into the bottom of a beautiful bun from Niedlov’s Bakery next door. Bacon slices that are chewy but not flaccid, melting Gruyere cheese, house-made pickle slices, caramelized onions, mustard, and mayo all are packed into the bun along with the burger.

Accompany that substantial hamburger by a plate of well-salted, house-made tallow-cooked fries. Somewhere on the spectrum between cottage fries and chips, the potato discs sport tender middles and crisp edges. For a vegetable that’s green, consider broccoli flavored with garlic and aleppo, woven with ribbons of Parmesan.

The Southside now boasts many compelling restaurants. If you are a carnivore, put this one at the top of your itinerary.

What To Eat

Bacon Cheeseburger

Cottage Fried Potatoes



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