Screen Door Café brings South­ern dishes to Day­ton

Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow - - DINING - BY GIL­BERT STRODE CORRESPONDENT

Af­ter open­ing its doors in Soddy- Daisy in 2015, Screen Door Café rein­vented it­self in Jan­uary by mov­ing to a his­toric house at the foot of Day­ton Moun­tain sur­rounded by lush horse pas­tures — the per­fect set­ting for its lus­cious South­ern menu and a re­laxed lunch date.

The restau­rant is sev­eral blocks away from High­way 27 and Day­ton, Tenn.’s down­town busi­ness dis­trict. But that iso­la­tion helps cus­tomers step away from what passes for hus­tle and bus­tle in Day­ton and slip into a more re­laxed frame of mind that is just the be­gin­ning of a great meal.

THE SPACE

The Screen Door Café oc­cu­pies one of the more in­ter­est­ing build­ings in Rhea County. The Civil War- era house has been home to, among other things, a Catholic school, of­fices and other restau­rants, such as Fehn’s 1891 House. Sev­eral rooms on the first floor serve as din­ing rooms. In one room, a small part of the Catholic school’s chalk­board has been pre­served. The kitchen is in the back, al­most giv­ing din­ers the feel­ing of be­ing at a sit-down re­cep­tion.

Walk­ing into this his­toric house and eat­ing in smaller rooms al­lows din­ers to have a more in­ti­mate ex­pe­ri­ence. My wife and I spent a won­der­ful hour at lunch away from our jobs and were able to fo­cus on each other and, of course, the food.

THE MENU

The Screen Door Café doesn’t have an ex­ten­sive list of ap­pe­tiz­ers, but it does have sev­eral in­ter­est­ing choices. Fried green toma­toes ($5), low-coun­try crab dip ($7) and a pi­mento cheese and grilled toast plate ($5.50) set the menu’s South­ern tone. How­ever, there are some pleas­ant sur­prises, like the Soul Rolls ($6), which are egg rolls filled with bar­be­cue, col­lards and Hop­pin’ John that come with bar­be­cue duck sauce.

The soup and salad menu is more ro­bust, with choices such as Kale Cae­sar Salad, Greek Salad and Ap­ple Chicken Salad. Prices for sal­ads range from $ 3. 50 for a small house salad to $ 9.50 for the Ap­ple Chicken. The Screen Door also of­fers a soup of the day, to which din­ers can add a grilled cheese sand­wich for $4 for a great light meal.

The Screen Door serves a va­ri­ety of sand­wiches, i nclud­ing Fried Green Tomato BLT, bar­be­cue and a tomato “Jam” wich, which lay­ers fried green toma­toes, tomato jam, toma­toes, boursin cheese and pick­led red onions on black rye.

Hun­grier din­ers have the op­tion of fried cat­fish, a bar­be­cue plate, a New York strip steak and a chicken liver din­ner. The Screen Door also of­fers shrimp and grits, meat­loaf and fried shrimp among other full din­ners.

The restau­rant prides it­self on its burg­ers, in­clud­ing unique of­fer­ings like the pi­mento cheese burger and the Screen Door Burger, which is topped with pulled pork bar­be­cue, pi­mento cheese and fried onions.

THE FOOD

I’ve had the Screen Door’s bar­be­cue be­fore, and will gladly re­turn for it. How­ever, the daily spe­cial prime rib sand­wich was too good to pass up.

Thinly sliced prime rib was topped with house spicy horse­rad­ish, arugula and pick­led red onion. My lunch date rarely passes up a chance to have pi­mento cheese, so she opted for the grilled pi­mento cheese. Grilling the pi­mento cheese made it gooey, rich and de­li­cious.

Know­ing how f illing our sand­wiches would be made us skip ap­pe­tiz­ers. But we saved room for dessert. Al­though choco­late cake and a choco­late pecan pie were on the menu, we made the right choice with the peanut but­ter pie. It was rich, thick, boasted a gra­ham cracker crust and was topped with choco­late

ganache. We will re­turn just to get an­other slice. The restau­rant also sells whole pies if you or­der ahead.

THE SER­VICE

Our wait­ress kept our glasses full, pa­tiently an­swered all our ques­tions and was en­thu­si­as­tic about the Screen Door Café, its food and its his­tory.

THE VER­DICT

I think I speak for a large por­tion of Rhea County when I say the Screen Door Café is a wel­come ad­di­tion to the lo­cal culi­nary scene.

The bar­be­cue it­self is worth the trip, and the food is lov­ingly pre­pared.

Even in an area with a lot of places spe­cial­iz­ing in South­ern food, the Screen Door Café sets it­self apart with cre­ativ­ity and mak­ing ev­ery­thing in-house from desserts to bar­be­cue and sauces.

PHO­TOS BY GIL­BERT STRODE

Screen Door Café has moved from Soddy-Daisy to a his­toric Civil War home in Rhea County.

Thinly sliced prime rib,topped with house­made spicy horse­rad­ish, arugula and pick­led red onion make up Screen Door Café’s prime rib sand­wich.

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