I first read about Zarzour’s Cafe in Hamburger America, four or five years ago when I got my first copy of the first edition of the book, and added it to my list then. It had always been a matter of timing: they’re open M-F 11:00-3:30 and I was always only either: a) driving through Chattanooga in the morning or evening; or b) actually there on a weekend.
As we started a weekend road trip to Nashville, it looked like the stars might align. Rolling into a rainy Chattanooga around 11:40 worked out perfectly. We drove to the southside and scored a great parking spot by the door. We grabbed a two-top by the front door, as we had apparently beaten the lunch crowd
but in the forty-five minutes or so that we were there, the place filled up quite nicely.
It became obvious this was a “neighborhood” place as most everyone who walked in was greeted by name, often with the cook affirming their order as she greeted them. There <was an exception for the guy that was greeted with, “What’s up, chicken head?”
and the roast beef did look tempting, but we were there for burgers.
As we sat by the door, we watched everyone come in, particularly intrigued by an older couple who walked in midway through our meal. He sat at a table. She walked into the kitchen. We’d already seen several folks fixing their own drinks, so we gathered that they were all regulars. But she seemed awfully comfortable. A few minutes later, the lady from the kitchen was standing behind the counter telling someone, “My mother owns it. My sister runs it. I work for Hamilton County – I just came in for lunch.” But she’d been called into duty.
We both ordered cheese burgers with fries. They arrived about twenty minutes later, fresh from the griddle
The cheese was melted perfectly. The burger was a little done for me (I did hear folks asking for theirs a “little pink”, so there is an option, albeit not well publicized.) The fries were cooked to that perfect crunch and chewy inside.
The only downsides? They had no bacon. Period. And the catchup was Hunts.
As we were leaving, the cook asked if we were traveling through. I told her we were from Atlanta and she asked if we’d come because of roadfood. I told her Hamburger America. “I LOVE George!”, was her response
Then we remembered the pie. We got a couple of slices to-go
Jo chose peanut butter pie. She said she should have skipped the burger entirely and gone straight to the pie. Apparently it was quite good. I got lemon ice-box – not one of my favorites nor was it particularly stellar.
If you’re in Chattanooga on a week day, you need to stop by.