Project Press /

New Restaurant Stir is Now Open, Chattanooga TN

Stir, the newest Chattanooga restaurant concept by SquareOne Holdings, is now open at the Chattanooga Choo Choo in a refurbished space that meshes Chattanooga history with a modern, urban feel.

Stir’s ‘New American’ menu offers bold, seasonal, local fare with a new-age spin, said officials. The ingredient-driven dining experience offers from scratch gourmet in a casual-hip atmosphere, including oysters at the dedicated raw bar.

Stir uses ingredients predominately from farms and vendors within 100 miles of Chattanooga through the restaurants partner Harvested Here.

Artisanal ice plays a role in Stir’s bar concept – with purified slow melting ice in each cocktail. Cocktail recipes were created in partnership with bartender and 20-year veteran Gary Crunkleton from a selection of more than 350 spirits.

Indoor seating accommodates up to 200 guests, and outdoor seating up to 100 guests in the Chattanooga Choo Choo’s newly renovated space. The original structure dates back to 1908 and the restaurant has updated the inside and out while keeping many original elements exposed and intact in the 5,300 square foot restaurant.  Private parties can accommodate up to 40 guests in the “Kabooze Room” and an additional 40 on the private terrace.

In support of its partnership with Chattanooga Community Kitchen, Stir will make a donation to the organization in celebration of the restaurant’s grand opening week.

The restaurant is open Sunday from 10:30 a.m.–12 a.m. with brunch served from 10:30 a.m.–2 p.m.; Monday–Thursday from 11 a.m.-12 a.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m.–1 a.m.

Local partners include Chattanooga Community Kitchen – non-profit philanthropy; Clumpies – ice cream/dessert; Fleetwood Coffee – coffee; Graphic Designer Joe Tenison – logo design; Harvested Here – local food; Industrial Farmhouse – furniture design; Niedlov’s – bakery items; Riverworks Marketing Group – website; The Hot Chocolatier – dessert and Waterhouse Public Relations – public relations and social media.  National and regional partners include Gary Crunkleton – bar concept and Trapp Associates Ltd.- architecture and design.

(Source: The Chattanoogan)

Project Press /

Balter Brewing Coming to Downtown Knoxville

You might be expecting an introduction to the Balter family at this point.

It turns out “Balter,” according to the Balter Brewing website, is a verb meaning to “dance without particular grace or skill, but with enjoyment.” Sounds like a fun place and that’s exactly what Blaine Wedekind told me they intend to build at the corner of Jackson and Broadway – the site of the former Corner BP. In short, the concept is a craft brewery with a restaurant serving “elegant bar food,” a beer garden and sometimes scene for live music. Sounds like a place one might just decide to balter.

Blaine is a fourth generation Knoxvillian. A West High School graduate, he earned a business degree at the University of Tennessee and worked for Cherokee Distribution. His partner in the new venture will be responsible for the brewing portion of the equation. The partner (and friend) isn’t ready to be named just yet, but has home-brewed beer for eight years and has some commercial experience. He also has a degree in bio-systems engineering, which should come in handy. While the two partners developed the concept and will manage the business, they are joined by several equity partners including Blaine’s father, David.

The brewing component will include a seven barrel system with the intent of creating, “big flavorful, unique beers.” Blaine said the two, “want to help put Knoxville on the map for brewing trips.” They want it, “to be an experience for the beer explorer.” The intent is to brew enough beer for the brew pub and for customers to take home in growlers.

They have no plans to bottle or distribute the beer, meaning people will need to come to Knoxville to experience it. Available beers will include an IPA, Brown Ale, Porter, a Huckleberry Wheat Ale, and a Breakfast Stout. That one caught my attention. He said breakfast malts would be used. I’m certainly intrigued. They will also serve wine, which he assures me will be of a good quality (he’s considering Decoy Wine) and they will also have a full bar with craft cocktails. He wants everyone to find something to enjoy.

By “elegant bar food,” Blaine means simple meals that can be easily prepared, but which include quality ingredients, which he hopes to source locally as much as possible. They are planning to have sliders and at least one burger. He’s interested in street tacos featuring locally-made tortillas and an extended appetizer selection. They plan to have fresh vegetables and food not commonly found downtown. In other words, it will be light, but with gourmet flair. He wants the food to be of a quality that people will consider it a lunch spot – with really great beer.

They’ve already begun assembling a staff and have already secured the services of a chef and general manager. Once they reach full staffing, he anticipates having fifty to sixty people on payroll. They are looking to partner with a local farm for beef and other products and would like to recycle their spent grain back to that farm. They want the staff to be knowledgeable about craft beer in order to enhance the experience and, hopefully, inspire potential home brewers to give it a try.

A beer garden will also be included, which is where you might encounter live music. From the beer garden, patrons will be able to watch the brewing process and ask questions of the brew master, if they like. The intent is to have a comfortable, educational and fun experience that will inspire patrons to be more involved and out-of-town guests to travel to the city to give the beer a try.

John Sanders is working as local consultant, while Tim Trapp of Trapp Associates is handling the design end and Allen Corey of Square One Holdings is providing support on the business end. In a special arrangement, Carolina Brewery of Chapel Hill has agreed to have Blaine and his partner work with them for the next three months in order to learn the operations side of the business. He points out that the Mayor’s office, and Bob Whetsel in particular, has been very helpful, making it possible for them to do the project.

Parking is also available on site for out of town visitors or people simply driving in from out of downtown. They will also provide bike racks and hope to promote walking and biking to the pub which is directly between downtown proper and the northern ring neighborhoods.

The tentative plans include beginning production in May, with an eye toward a potential opening date of August 1. They expect large game-day crowds in the fall and hope to have some practice time before the business heats up to that degree. They anticipate hours will be 11:00 AM to Midnight.

So there’s more of the good news I told you would mark this year – and there’s more to come. Check out their website and like them on Facebook so they know the love that’s coming their way. I’ll see you there when the weather is warmer.


Expertise Interview /

5 Tips to Create a Killer Outdoor Dining Space

OpenTable recently revealed its list of top restaurants for outdoor dining, as voted by OpenTable users. While many of them were standouts for their jaw-dropping views of oceans, deserts and mountains, the spaces represented a variety of settings from garden patios to rooftop decks. So what makes a good outdoor space, and are you missing out on visits because your al fresco is just so-so? Here are a few tips to make the most of your decks, patios and other outdoor dining areas.

1. Consider all aspects. On one hand, outdoor seats are cheap seats. You don’t have to pay for walls, air conditioning and the like. On the other hand, there’s more to it than just setting up a few tables and chairs. Expenses include costs associated with health, fire, ADA and building codes, pest control, servers’ stations, lighting, space heaters, and fans. Suppose, as a house owner, if you want to ward off pests from your garden to make the outdoor setting more comfortable, you might have to get in touch with pest control companies ga or similar companies in your vicinity. This might cost you a certain amount. A landscape budget is important as well so that the space looks planned and not as an afterthought. Even small things-like heavy tablecloths and menus that won’t blow away can add up. For example, if you were to include a space heater you may need to consider how much both the actual heater is going to cost plus the potential cost of propane gas. You might need to visit websites similar to, to help you with possibly calculating and suppling this amenity.

“If you can only fit one row of tables, I might say ‘Don’t bother,’ says restaurant designer Tim Trapp, president of Boulder, CO-based Trapp Associates. Because much of the fun of eating outdoors is the buzz and the social interaction, “two rows of tables, staggered, is ideal,” he says. “Of course, if your setting is killer, and you only have space for a few tables, go for it.” Also consider back-of-the house impact. Do you have the dishroom, kitchen, bar and storage capacity for the extra business?
No matter where your dining area is located, a closed kitchen with storage mediums such as refrigerators is essential. Most food producers and catering establishments require commercial refrigeration to ensure the safe storage of high-quality ingredients, maximizing freshness and reducing waste. Without a way to cool and keep food cold, food quality and safety would be jeopardized, and the sophisticated cold chain we’ve come to expect would be impossible. That’s why, instead of concentrating solely on the outdoor dining area, you may want to consider investing in a dependable refrigeration system by contacting commercial refrigeration companies in your area.

2. Don’t try to compete with nature. Remember that you cannot compete with nature. No amount of planning, plotting, and designing can help you win against the marvels and beauty of nature. Instead, if you have a restaurant business, compete with your competitors–maybe the restaurant around you. Perhaps you can raise the bar by displaying your promotions, events, business info, and more with the digital signage solutions offered by the likes of Atmosphere. As a matter of fact, this could be a good idea since it gives you a better chance of beating your competitor. However, as discussed earlier you cannot beat Mother Nature. This means that if you have a great view from your patio or deck, don’t mess with it by over-decorating. A patio heater and a few furniture pieces from the likes of Belleze Furniture (or similar companies) can suffice for the entire setting, if the view outside is that good. However, on the other hand, there’s nothing to see but asphalt and cars, go ahead and pull the focus inward by installing that water or fire feature. New designs in space heaters, such as tall fire columns provide both form and function. (And, if you have a fireplace or fire strips on tables, why not menu small sausages or marshmallows that guests can “cook” themselves?) “Don’t try to bring too much of the indoors out, but keep your brand in mind when making choices outdoors,” says Trapp. “Your customer outside is the same customer inside, so make sure you’re giving them the same experience.” His mantra for indoor design extends to the outdoors as well: Comfortable, sophisticated, inviting, relaxing, timeless.

3. Put a lid on it. Even in ideal weather, it’s sometimes good to have an “emotional lid” on an outdoor dining space, says Trapp. Umbrellas are okay, but if you don’t have a roof-like structure, consider a retractable canopy or awning, a lighted trellis or strings of festoon lights overhead to create some relief from miles of uninterrupted sky. “Soft, swaggy strings of light are inexpensive and incredibly effective,” says Trapp, but choosing the right color temperature is crucial. Recent improvements in LED engineering have made have made it possible to get an energy-efficient option minus the harsh blue cast of earlier generations of LEDs. “There are great soft, amber light choices that are easy on the eyes,” Trapp says. “Warm light makes a world of difference.”

4. Think about workflow. If your outdoor space is small, could those tables be forgotten as your servers get busy indoors? Make sure you have enough staff assigned and consider if a POS or server’s station is necessary to maintain good service levels. If you’re constructing a new restaurant or remodeling, Trapp advises building direct access to the kitchen so patio servers aren’t traveling through dining rooms. Also, he suggests, plan your space so that outdoor dining is visible from the entrance. “You approach that hostess stand and you have to make a quick decision. First-time visitors might be reluctant to commit to sitting outside if they can’t see what they’re in for,” says Trapp. “Again, disregard that if the view out the back is stellar.”

5. Seating considerations. Traditional four- and two-tops? Lounge arrangements? Bar-height tables and chairs? As you would when designing indoor space, ask who your customer is. Business diners? Couples? Big groups? Outdoor space gives you some ability to loosen up, as well.

“A community table can work better outdoors than inside because it’s more relaxed,” Trapp says. “Keep community tables at bar-height, though, because it’s more approachable.” If you’re thinking of a lounge space, ask first if your menu is conducive to it. Or build items into your menu that are lounge-friendly. Think little plates and items that don’t need to be cut. Choose lounge furniture carefully and make sure it’s conducive to eating and drinking. Deep, soft chairs and sofas look inviting, but they won’t move liquor. Shallower, firmer seating ensures customers won’t have to struggle up and out of their seats to reach their wine glass. Be careful with surfaces, too. Coffee tables with legs and open space for guests’ feet-as opposed to cube-shaped pieces-make eating in a lounge area much more comfortable.