If you go
› Where: Wine Down Ooltewah, 9431 Bradmore Lane in Cambridge Square
› Hours: Noon-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, noon-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, 5-9 p.m. Monday
› Prices: $7-$23 lunch, $7-$28 dinner
› Alcohol: Yes
› Phone: 423-531-9463
› Online: www.winedown bar.com
After Wine Down in Ooltewah posted a picture of its new spring menu's Lobstah Roll on social media last month, the wine bar's Facebook page exploded with posts about how great it was. Native New Englanders now living in Chattanooga were even giving it their thumbs-up.
Being a seafood fan myself, I stopped in to see what the buzz was about.
Wine Down is an intimate space in Ooltewah's booming Cambridge Square. It's one room holding about 10 tables with a bar running the length of one wall.
It's decorated in the ubiquitous open ceiling/exposed ductwork decor with pendant and track lighting suspended over a wood floor. There are about a half-dozen tables on a patio for al fresco dining.
A chalkboard above the bar lists each day's specials — and one of the things I love about this restaurant is that it always surprises me with how inventive (fried bologna and cheddar jack deviled eggs) or savory (vegan jambalaya) the dishes might be.
In addition to charcuterie and cheese boards, the dinner menu ranges from Sweet Thai Chili Pork Chops ($20) to burgers ($12-$13) to Grown Up Grilled Cheese ($12).
The newest addition to the menu is the Three Little Pigs appetizer ($7): pork belly pimento cheese, whiskey-braised carnitas, crispy pig skin and maple chili bourbon barbecue.
But I was there expressly for the Lobstah Roll.
What happens when a New England chef transplanted to the South gets homesick for a taste of home? He creates a Lobstah — not lobster — roll for the menu.
I've never paid $23 for a sandwich in my life and wondered what could be on this one to validate that price — even if they were flying in Maine lobsters for that authentic taste. It met and surpassed my expectations.
Chef Marcus Garner combines claw and tail meat, Duke's mayonnaise, fresh lemon and chopped celery, which is served on a 6-inch buttered and toasted roll. It comes with a basket of Old Bay fingerling chips.
I didn't need to be told by the waitress that the lobster had just arrived that morning — it was pink and plump with a sweet taste that immediately relayed how fresh it was. The meat was succulent, not chewy or rubbery. And there was so much lobster meat that I had to eat half off the top in order to even be able to pick up and fold the bun.
Other lobster rolls I've had on beach vacations have been swimming in mayo, but not this. It had just enough moisture to keep it from being deemed dry and to let the fresh meat shine. Each bite finished with a light tang from the lemon.
But chew carefully — twice I bit down on minuscule pieces of shell that had not been visible to the eye. Not enough to do damage, but noticeable.
The fingerling chips were bite-size crisps that had a sharp crunch and were not in the least greasy. They were well-seasoned and made a great counterpoint to the mayo-moistened lobster meat.
The Lobstah Roll is offered on the lunch and dinner menus. So even though I had stopped in for a late afternoon lunch, arriving about an hour before dinner service, I didn't think it would be a problem to order one. The waitress said they didn't start serving them again until 5 p.m., but she offered to check in the kitchen to see if they would prepare me a Lobstah Roll since she knew they were already being prepped. She returned saying it was no problem and they could serve me.
Now that's putting the customer first.
A $23 sandwich isn't an item I usually indulge in, but for this I will return. The amount of lobster for the money is a good deal. This was one case where you can believe what you read on the internet.
Contact Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284.