Alleia (Italian)

Alleia is a very upscale, tasty, romantic, and (by Chattanooga standards) expensive, chef driven rustic Italian eaterie. It is located in a renovated brick industrial building that sits directly behind the historic terminal station for the now defunct passenger railway line that used to pass through town, and was made famous by the Glen Miller mega hit “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” I was invited to dinner here by my Dalton friends, as we were going to go to a Buddy Guy concert that night at the Tivoli Theater (one of the many former vaudeville & movie palaces nationwide that cities have wisely been saving from the wrecking ball). This is one of the oddities of travel, I’d never heard Buddy Guy live in concert before, even though he’s based in my home town of Chicago — I had to come to a much smaller city at the GA/TN border to do it.

Free parking in that part of town is almost nonexistent, and it was raining, so I was incredibly happy to discover Alleia offers complementary valet parking. Directly behind the stand is the entrance to the restaurant, but good luck on finding the door during daylight. The contrast between the outdoor light and darkened space in which the massive ancient-keep-like wooden door sits, makes it almost impossible to see it till your eyes adjust to the difference — and keep in mind it was raining when I got there. As I had arrived a good half-hour before my hosts the restaurant placed me at a table right near the front windows so that I could spot them arriving, and while there I watched one befuddled elderly gentleman walk right past it — twice, trying to find the entrance. Once you’ve lugged open the door (it required grabbing the ring on the front and leaning back to get the thing to move) you enter into a darkly lit space reminiscent of a church, with massive candles that have been allowed to drip their wax to the floor, and hanging gas lanterns.

My meal was nummy. For my appetizer I had a very finely cut carpaccio with truffle and radish, and then for my main I had quail which lay on a fig, onion, and something else purée that was served with a side of sauteed purple cabbage and new potatoes … all of which was wonderful. The star of the show, however, was my dessert, an olive oil gelato (something that sounded incredibly odd but my friend promised me was something to be tried) with bits of salty pistachio in it. The gelato melted in the mouth in a way I’ve never experienced before, and the counterpoint to the pistachio was just amazing.

 

dinner

Battles for Chattanoga, GA

Well worth the price! Probably the easiest to understand explanation of the civil war battles in this area, played out on a 3d diorama . Is it low rent? Sure, but whoever put the thing together did so with a spark of theatrical genius which makes the whole thing worth while. Great theater of the off off off Broadway variety if you will…

The Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park consists of three separate parks that memorialize one of the major/pivotal military campaigns of the Civil War (or what some Southerners refer to as the War of Northern Aggression).

They are: (listed in the order I went to them)

  1. Chickamauga Battlefield & Visitor Center (in GA)
  2. Cravens House located 1/2 way up Lookout Mountain (which I didn’t bother seeing the inside of because the original house was decimated during the battles, and what’s there is entirely a re-creation — and it’s only open on Weekends)
  3. Point Park & Lookout Mountain Battlefield Visitor Center (which the Park service thinks of as two separate things but I don’t think anyone else does)

Next door the #3’s visitor center is the tourist trap called Battles of Chattanooga which to be quite honest, completely beats the crap out of the paltry offerings at the tourist center next door; and, any traveler who wants a better understanding of the battles around Chattanooga should consider this a MUST do. In fact, this is the 2nd time I’ve gone to this attraction, the first time was maybe 10 or 15 years ago as a friend and I road tripped from Chicago to Disney World, and we spotted massive road signs advertising it. At the time we thought it was going to be hokey, but as we were both geeks we decided to give it a try. We ultimately agreed it was utterly worth the time as both of us had studied the battles in school, but the 3D blinking lights visual demonstration (showing troop movements up and down the mountains that surround the city, etc), allowed us to finally understand what had happened.

However, as it had been at least 10 years since my last viewing I decided to buy include the ticket to this as part of the Rock City/Ruby Falls/Battles combo deal which I strongly suggest buying if you’re going to be in Chattanooga for at least a few days. And I suggest seeing this demonstration and THEN going across the street to the National park at the point.

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Since it was to dark inside to take any useful photos, let me set the scene with words:

Imagine if you will one of those massive sculpted 3d tables that shows the geography of the Chattanooga basin looking south across the winding Tennessee River —  with lookout mountain on the far right, and the hills of Missionary Ridge to the far left, effectively encircling the city below. Now imagine on the wall behind the table a movie about the long siege of the area, and how it went on until President Lincoln finally got fed up with General Bragg’s refusal to be aggressive (which was resulting in failing morale among the soldiers) and opted to replace him with General Ulysses S. Grant (sometimes referred to as Lincoln’s Butcher). From time to time the movie darkens, and the map comes alive with flickering colored lights demonstrating troop movements. For example: Federals floating past Confederate guards in the dead of night to attack the only viable ferry point, or racing up Missionary Ridge as, father like son, the elder (and horribly named) Arthur Macarthur (can’t you just imagine the ribbing he got growing up?) disobeys Grants express orders — setting the pattern for his son I suppose — and thereby wins one of the first Medals of Honor, as his son General Douglas Macarthur would later do in WWII (making them the first father and son pair to do so).  The whole thing is really quite exciting.