Review by: Michael Stern

Roadfood Hot Tip

“There is a real gastronomic jewel in Chattanooga, Tennessee,” wrote tipster John Reed in a note we received in the early 2000s. “To my knowledge, it has never received the national recognition it deserves.” Mr. Reed went on to describe the best square meals and burgers in the city, served in what he called the “proverbial hole-in-the-wall.”

Once we found Zarzour’s, we blew kisses back to Mr. Reed. This is not a diner you’ll likely discover on a scenic tour. When you do finally locate this hidden gem, hope that it’s between 11am and 2pm. Zarzour’s opens only for weekday lunch. We liked it so much, we reviewed it for Gourmet Magazine.

A Restaurant with Personality

A short counter with four stools separates the open kitchen from the tiny cafe’s few tables. Behind the counter and in front of it, manager Shannon Fuller, who passed away early in 2022,  used to greet everyone who entered. She, with her husband Dixie — who’s still running things — loved to chat with customers. They considered it their job to make sure everything happened as it should. With Shannon gone, that spirit still prevails. Here is proof that restaurant excellence at every level of dining depends on the human being (or beings) whose personality infuses the place. Forget absentee management! Since it opened in 1918, Zarzour’s has always reflected pride of ownership.

Burgers and Square Meals

Hamburgers are magnificent. Behind the counter, Mary Smith cooks huge, gnarled-crust, juice-dripping patties and piles them with condiments on beautiful buns from local Niedlov’s Bakery.

Beyond legendary burgers, the menu is minimal. A 5-by-7-inch piece of paper printed with the handful of always available items: grilled chicken, creamed potatoes, turnip greens, etc. Below that are written such daily specials as country-style steak, King Ranch chicken, and grilled pork chops. Wonderful skillet-cooked cornbread accompanies hot lunches. It’s a challenge to choose between great homespun square meals and awe-inspiring burgers.

So Sweet

For dessert, expect such Southern favorites as banana pudding and peach cobbler topped with Dixie’s hand-made ice cream. We have fond memories of that first visit long ago when we forked into slices of millionaire pie: A blend of frozen Cool Whip and sweetened condensed milk embraces pineapple chunks, walnut pieces, green grapes, and mandarin orange slices.

A small patio has been opened up at the side of the restaurant for outdoor dining — a necessity during the social-distance phase of the pandemic, and now a pleasant place to breathe Chattanooga’s fresh mountain air while enjoying the best square meals and burgers in town.

What To Eat


Millionaire Pie

Baked Spaghetti

Fried Chicken Livers

Lemon Ice Box Pie


Grilled Pork Chop

Banana Pudding

Peach Cobbler



Zarzour’s Recipes

Millionaire Pie


What do you think of Zarzour’s?

One Response to “Zarzour’s”

Carol Bayer

May 5th, 2011

Though not far from the interstate, it is unlikely that many travelers find this little jewel. There is a STOP sign outside that should be obeyed, because stopping here is a must. They have expanded their hours from 11 AM to 3:30 PM, adding an additional 7 1/2 hours to their weekly schedule.

We were greeted warmly and treated like family while there. The staff was attentive and friendly, and recognized immediately that we were not from around there. Other locals also noted this fact and some came by to say hello and chat about their own travels. There are six small tables and a counter in the front, and there’s a back part we didn’t visit.

The specials today were meatloaf with a Creole sauce (chopped fresh tomatoes) and chicken fingers. We ordered one of each and a cheeseburger. The regular sides were all available and black-eyed peas were the side du jour. We tried the salad, turnip greens, black-eyed peas, and creamed potatoes.

The meatloaf and cheeseburger were both just about perfect. The turnip greens (in some delicious pot liquor) and black-eyed peas were so good we ordered extra servings to take home. The chicken fingers make McNuggets seem like dog food: moist, perfectly breaded and cooked, and served with an incomparable honey mustard sauce. It may not sound like much, but we all agreed this was a perfect meal. The dessert of the day was lemon ice box cake with the kind of graham cracker crust you might only remember from your childhood.

We signed the special guest book and left with big smiles and full tummies. Visiting Rock Gardens after this was the perfect ending and highly recommended.

We would like to add one last thing here. The area around Chattanooga has been utterly devastated by the recent tornadoes. The tragedy is indescribable, but the people have the kind of love and spirit that not only creates great food, but will aid them in getting through this. My hearts and prayers go out to all of them and we thank them for giving us such a warm welcome to their beautiful part of the country and wish them a full and speedy recovery from their horrible losses.


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