What’s Cookin’: Daring to be Different

sluggos[s2If is_user_logged_in()]

PDF Click here to view this article as a PDF[/s2If]

Sluggo’s North serves delicious, all-vegan fare among a casual atmosphere that draws customers from all walks of life.

Story and photos by JOHN DERSHAM

Chattanooga is a popular tourist destination thanks to its history, natural beauty and a decades-long urban redevelopment that includes the Tennessee Aquarium, IMAX Theater and other contemporary attractions.

But at the heart of the city’s renewal is its hipster vibe fueled by youthful enthusiasm and the willingness to do things just a little differently. Sluggo’s North Vegetarian Café, located in the North Shore district, exudes this philosophy in its own subtle way.

Sluggo’s welcomes patrons from all walks of life with its eclectic, artsy and casual atmosphere. And the fact the food is fantastic… well, we’ll get to that shortly.[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]

To read the rest of this article, pick up a copy of the Winter 2015 issue OR Subscribe Now for instant access to our online edition, which offers more photos (including those not published in the print edition).

[/s2If][s2If is_user_logged_in()]It’s called Sluggo’s North because there is an original Sluggo’s located much farther south – Pensacola, Fla. Owners Ash Krey and Terry Johnson opened the Chattanooga Sluggo’s in 2009 to the delight of vegans, vegetarians and a growing group of traditional meat lovers, who find themselves true fans of the café’s healthy and delicious fare.

“We have customers from all parts of the community and regulars from all over the region,” Krey says. “Many travel a long way to eat here.”

Case in point: My wife, Kyle, and I visit Sluggo’s on a Friday for lunch and meet Jenny and Patrick Drake from Murfreesboro, Tenn., who make the 200-mile round trip every couple of weeks to eat here. Today, they enjoy the sunshine while eating outside with their dog, Spaetzle, sitting quietly beside them.

Sluggo’s business model is non-traditional. There are no job titles – meaning no managers or job descriptions. All 10 of the restaurant’s crew members are jack-of-trades in the business operation – everyone takes orders, cooks, serves, cleans and even arranges his or her own work schedule as needed.

And one other caveat – all current employees are musicians who regularly perform at Sluggo’s as well as other venues. This includes Krey and Johnson, who are part of a band called Basement Benders that will be performing in Japan this winter.

The restaurant’s music scene is about as indie as it gets. Krey describes it as “do-it-yourself entertainment” with overtones that encompass rock and roll, punk, blues and alternative. A first-time visitor might notice the café’s décor offers subtle hints at its musical heritage. Album covers among original artwork grace the walls, and used LP records are for sale along with used books.

But ambiance carries any establishment only so far. It’s the food that makes Sluggo’s a regional favorite. Orders are taken at the counter from an impressive selection of all-vegan entrees, appetizers and sides. Sluggo’s also boasts a nice list of craft beers as well as wine.

After ordering and picking up our utensils, we find a table, and in a pleasantly short time, our food arrives. It’s a wonderful sweet chili Thai bowl for me and sweet potato and spinach enchiladas for Kyle. The mix of flavors and sauces are so delicious that I’m convinced even the most dedicated meat-and-potatoes eater might consider a change in diet after trying these entrees.

Among other menu items, you’ll find: ginger curry bowl, pesto portabella quesadilla, spinach and roasted red pepper hummus wrap, panhandle tofu, pecan dusted seitan, soy taco plate and Sluggo’s burrito. There are also tempting appetizers, soups, vegan burgers, sandwiches and bowls as well as muffins and pies.

Kyle has a vegan cherry muffin. I can only assume it must be really good since I am not offered a taste.

Sluggo’s serves brunch on Sundays and has a catering service that will bring most of the same menu items to you for your group event or party with a 48-hour notice.

In addition to its downstairs music concerts, Sluggo’s offers themed events like Sunday Movie Night, when it serves its vegan pizza pies, and every Monday at 9 p.m. is Pub Quiz Night – also with pizza pies – and $1 Pabst Blue Ribbon beers.

Kyle and I have already put Sluggo’s on our return-soon list. We also feel first-timers will love the ambiance and the people you will meet here – just like many regulars do. But most of all, it’s the incredible food that will have you coming back for more.

If You Go

GETTING THERE: Sluggo’s North Vegetarian Café is at 503 Cherokee Blvd, Chattanooga, TN 37405.

LUNCH AND DINNER HOURS: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

BRUNCH HOURS: Sunday, noon-3 p.m.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: For daily specials and musical acts, visit Sluggo’s North on
Facebook; 423-752-5224[/s2If]