Downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a seriously awesome place. I fell in love with it when I was young and my dad would drive the hour it took to get us there so we could eat at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo and then wander around the top of Lookout Mountain. Luckily, my middle brother and his family live there, so we still get to visit lots. And it’s still one of my favorite places. Chattanooga has done a stellar job of downtown renaissance and making itself into A Must-See Destination. Such as this Broad Street block that’s just up the street from the Tennessee River and the Tennessee Aquarium. This block is home to Sticky Fingers Smokehouse, the barbecue restaurant-chain that three friends who first met as seventh-graders in Chattanooga started in 1992 in Charleston, S.C. My brother and I were there to pick up wings, pulled chicken and pulled pork for my nephew’s 12-year-old birthday party, and I have to say that Sticky Fingers’ wings rate right up there — meaty, juicy and just-right-hot. I can see why my nephew requested Sticky Fingers for his birthday. (I think I’ll do the same, even though that means moving my birthday to a city four hours away. Worth it.) Another treasure on this block is Greyfriar’s Coffee and Tea Co., one of my brother’s top choices for coffee — and he knows coffee. And of course there’s more to Chattanooga than wings and coffee. You’ve got history, hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, shopping, music, art, more eating and more good times. Go check it out, and tell my brother I sent you.
If your Fourth of July plans call for some barbecue this weekend, I hope it’s as good as this plate of finger-lickin’ goodness I got at Bar-B-Q by Jim in Tupelo, Mississippi, this week. Now, I am not a barbecue fanatic. I never get up in the morning and say, “I’ve got to have some barbecue today.” But when good barbecue falls in your lap — and anybody who eats with me knows I mean that literally — you cannot refuse. Bar-B-Q by Jim is moist and succulent with a faint woodsy flavor. It’s perfect on its own, but a dribble of the molasses-based sauce makes it even better. The cole slaw is crunchy and crisp and not drowned in mayonnaise, the potato salad is firm and savory and not drowned in mayonnaise and those rolls — light and rich and buttery all at the same time. Thank you, Jim Beane, for making barbecue that even non-barbecue folks like me can love. Go to http://bbqbyjim.com/ for details.