Zarzour’s Cafe: Culinary Recon Near Chattanooga Choo-Choo

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Restaurant Chattanooga

Zarzour’s has served Southern comfort food in Chattanooga for nearly a century.

When my brother and I first plotted my visit to Atlanta, he was excited to share some of his favorite restaurants around his adopted home city. As is often the case when we get together, the radius of our hunt quickly expanded. Soon we were discussing drives to eat in eastern Alabama and southern Tennessee. After protracted negotiations, we decided only one long-haul drive made sense. This is how we ended up eating lunch at Zarzour’s, a concrete box near the Chattanooga Choo-Choo museum.

Restaurant Chattanooga

Zarzour’s has been in the family since 1918, when Nazera bought husband Charlie the restaurant…and promptly died two months later.

Charlie’s descendants still run the café. Shirley Zarzour Fuller currently owns Zarzour’s and jointly operates the restaurant with by son Charlie, great-grandson Joe Fuller and Joe’s wife Shannon.

Restaurant Chattanooga

The café consists of two dining rooms. The front dining room has a counter with four stools and a handful of tables bearing blue-and-white checkerboard tablecloths.

Restaurant Chattanooga

Framed, wall-mounted sayings include, “I can only please one person per day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow is not looking good either,” and “This is not Burger King. You don’t get it your way, you take it my way or you don’t get the son of a bitch.”

As soon as we arrived, Shannon Fuller knew right away that we were first-timers. “Roadfood?” How’d she know? She seated us at a four-seater with a regular and his granddaughter. He’s at Zarzour’s three times a week, said Thursday’s the day to come, since it’s meatloaf day. Apparently they normally serve salmon patties on Wednesday; he was surprised it wasn’t on the menu. Shannon “caught” me snapping photos and accused me of “doing reconnaissance.” I assured her she had nothing to worry about, so she took our order.

Cornbread Chattanooga

We started with a basket of skillet-cooked cornbread, a wheel that had been cut into sixths. It wasn’t sweet, but as I understand it, true Southern cornbread isn’t supposed to be.

The menu didn’t give us much to work with; Zarzour’s only offers a few plate lunches a day, each served with two sides and a drink. As tempting as fried flounder sounded, my brother and I both chose beef dishes.

Southern Food Chattanooga

My country style steak featured a juicy, hand-formed ground beef patty rolled in flour, fried, and topped with creamy white gravy.

The steak was totally delicious, much better than I expected. Fresh white beans were luscious and the turnip greens were the best I’ve eaten, not bitter at all. Sweet peas are the only side that’s not homemade, which come from a can.

Hamburger Chattanooga

My brother ordered a small hamburger steak made with the same delicious beef as my “steak,” salty and char-grilled and served with hand-cut French fries.

Crinkle-cut pickled beets were palate-rattling and the cole slaw, finely chopped.

For dessert, I was craving peanut butter pie ever since I read about it on Unfortunately, they sold out.

Banana Pudding Chattanooga

I “settled” for banana pudding, easily the greatest version of my life.

Unlike every other version that’s so creamy and rich it fills you up by bite two, Zarzour’s pudding centered on caramelized bananas, which made a BIG difference.

Pie Chattanooga

My brother’s chocolate pie had a dense, cocoa-tinged filling, but was surprisingly light, with phenomenal flavor.

When we left, Shannon asked us to sign her brand new blue logbook. I thanked her for the delicious food. We squeezed past the expanding line, convinced our four-hour-drive was worth it for some of the best Southern food around.

Zarzour’s Cafe: Culinary Recon Near Chattanooga Choo-Choo


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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