She was once coined the “Dirtiest City in America.” Walter Cronkite, the most trusted man in America issued the moniker in the early 70’s after the waning industrial town with empty factories took away jobs but left the stifling smog entrapped in the Chattanooga valley. The air was so hazy, it blocked the magnificent views of the Appalachian Mountains and people fled in droves leaving a desolate downtown to rot and crumble.
Shamed into action, city planners took drastic steps to improve the environment and revitalized downtown. The city spent big redesigning its riverwalk and bridges and on the banks of the Tennessee River, bars and restaurants laid roots, welcoming locals and tourists who came for the attractions and outdoor activities.
Puckett’s is one such bar where I rested my weary legs after a long day of driving and off-loading cabinets, all 3,000 of them for a new multi-million dollar condominium complex on Cherry St.
“Hi, I’m Alisha, are you here for happy hour?” asked my friendly bartender whose unseen smile clearly showed behind her yellow face mask dotted with butterflies.
“Absolutely,” I replied. “I’m both hungry and thirsty, so load me up.”
“Well we got over a dozen brews on draft for happy hour and it runs till 7,” she added.
“Super, let’s start with something crisp and light, what do you recommend?”
“Music City Light – it’s a nice light body beer – smooth and solid taste.”
I nodded zealously and within minutes a clear, golden lager frosty in a mason jar sat on the bar by my laptop as I launched into my ritualistic research on the things to do and places to go.
Before I got too deep into due diligence, a gentleman sat in the stool a snappy six feet adjacent to me.
He ordered the Puckett’s famous Brisket Nachos – tortilla chips dizzled with cheese, black beans, pico de gallo and loaded with a thick layer of brisket in BBQ sauce.
Then he ordered what appeared to be whiskey in a stainless steel tumbler.
“What’s that,” I inquired.
“Tennessee Mule, like Moscow with a twist,” he replied.
“Yes it’s made of Tennessee Dickel Whiskey and ginger beer,” Alisha added. “You want me to make you one.”
I replied in the affirmative.
“You won’t regret it. You’ll love the taste of ginger and forget it’s alcohol until it kicks in. I’m Logan, by the way,”
“Chito, are you from here?”
“No, just two hours away, from Atlanta. We’re here doing mapping for GIS (Geographic Information System) for the county. We just got done and we’ll be heading back home tomorrow for the weekend.”
Super, within minutes one of Logan’s co-workers joined him to inbibe in the happy hour.
I ordered the Cherry Smoked Hot Wings, dry with a whiskey glaze and ordered another glass of Tennessee Mule. Logan was right, it went down smooth with a subtle hint of alcohol.
Before long a musician named Zech Dallas started strumming and singing “Ed Sheeran’s Perfect.”
“It’s nice to be here in Chattanooga. We’ll perform music for any occasion – a wide range of genres. I’m a musician and singer songwriter and also a worship pastor in my hometown of Ringgold, Georgia.
Zech sang through the night, I chatted up with my new friend Logan and bartender Alisha and before long the Tennessee Mule kicked in like a soda pop. Good thing my rig was just a stone’s throw away on Cherry Street, near the iconic Walnut Street Bridge, where I would be rocked smoothly to bed tonight. Chattanooga, you’ve come a long way Baby.Read more: Okefenokee Adventures :