Legendary | Worth driving from anywhere
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.
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.
Directions & Hours
|Credit Cards Accepted||No|