Weekend Getaway: How to Be a Chattavegan
Looking for a quick weekend trip filled with outdoor adventure, breathtaking sunsets, and of course tons of delicious vegan food? Fortunately, you're only about 1.5 hours away from Outside Magazine's Best Town Ever. That's right—Chattanooga, TN, boasts some of the most amazing trails, climbs, rides, paddles, and even glides in the U.S. Not only that, but we currently have four dedicated vegan restaurants, two vegan juice and raw food spots, and countless veg-friendly establishments. Still not convinced? Let me introduce myself and give you a sample weekend itinerary to get you started on planning your getaway.
First off, my name is Corey, and I'm a Chattanooga native who jumped into both veganism and trail running four years ago. Prior to the veg-life, I had no real appreciation for food or adventure.
Thankfully, a volunteer opportunity at a local animal shelter opened my mind to leaving animals off my plate, and after losing my first 50lbs as a vegetarian, I became a vegan and a runner to lose my next 20lbs. In that time I went from run/walking my first 2 miles, to completing the 72 mile Georgia Death Race.
In that same span, I've seen Chattanooga go from zero to double-digit vegan businesses, with everything from restaurants to soaps to artisan cheeses to bakeries. Seeing that boom and hoping to help it grow further, I started chattavegan to spread awareness of vegan options in Chattanooga and promote the vegan lifestyle. But enough about me, let's get to the itinerary!
If you are lucky enough to stay Friday night and wake up for breakfast, head to either Local Juice or Southern Sqweeze to start your day off right with a juice, smoothie, or my personal favorite, their açaí bowls. Both of these places have multiple locations, so you'll be covered in whatever part of town you decide to start. After breakfast, utilize Bike Chattanooga to head down to the riverfront and explore up to 13 miles of the paved Tennessee Riverwalk at one of its 8 downtown access points.
You'll likely work up an appetite from your cycling, so when lunch time rolls around make sure you're on the North Shore. Here you'll find a variety of shops, parks, and other fun things to do, but most importantly you'll find Chattanooga's favorite vegan restaurant Cashew.
Try the jackfruit BBQ, spicy Buffalo Bowl, Thai Loaded Sweet Potato, or one of their many other fantastic dishes. No matter what you order, ensure you save room for dessert. Cashew makes the most amazing baked goods, so incredible that they are even served in non-vegan restaurants all over the city.
I'll assume you're sufficiently stuffed at this point, so this might be a good time to waddle around and hit some of the local North Shore shops I mentioned previously. Check out recycled, re-purposed, and environmentally friendly items at Seed Goods or buy new/used books or vinyl at Winder Binder.
Once the shopping is done and you're up for some more adventure, take a quick 15min drive up Lookout Mountain to Sunset Rock. Parking can be tricky at the somewhat hidden spot if it's an especially gorgeous day, but once out of the car, it's less than a half a mile hike down to the cliff's edge. As the name suggests, you may want to try to time your trip to arrive at sunset so you can look out over the cliff and watch the sun fall behind the city below. Even if you arrive early, however, you'll likely be treated to breathtaking views and the sight of climbers scaling the mountainside.
It's likely time to eat again, but I'll give you a few options since you may still be recovering from the awesomeness that is Cashew. If you've worked up a full appetite, my first recommendation can be found just at the foot of the mountain. While not a vegan restaurant, Mojo Burrito was voted most veg-friendly by a survey of over 100 local vegans. In fact, Mojo was the very first restaurant that worked with chattavegan in setting up a page with their own custom vegan menu. Here you'll find gigantic better-than-Chipotle burritos, as well as nachos, tacos, hummus, and chili, which on select days of the week you can even top with vegan cheese from Cashew.
Not quite hungry enough for all that and would rather settle in with some appetizers and drinks? Check out The Flying Squirrel back in town just off Main Street. Their menu sees frequent changes usually offering at least 2-3 veg-friendly items, but one thing that is constant is their ridiculously tasty fries.
There are a variety of options when deciding where to settle in for the night. If you'd like to save some cash to be used toward more food, I would suggest either The Crash Pad hostel located conveniently right next door to The Flying Squirrel or trying your luck with Couchsurfing.
If you've never used Couchsurfing, it's a community of travelers that host one another for free on their couches or in their spare rooms. In less than a year our family has hosted travelers from five countries, and we've also stayed for free with generous locals when traveling. Luckily, Chattanooga has a fairly active CS community, so you're bound to find a verified and highly rated host if you plan at least a week or two in advance. I don't have specific hotel recommendations other than to try your best to stay downtown if at all possible. You'll find cheaper rates near the malls 15 minutes away, but it's worth a few extra bucks to stay close to the action.
You had a pretty big Saturday, so sleep in and take it easy until at least 10 am. Then at 11 am, rush to Sluggo's for the best vegan brunch in town. Every Sunday they have a brunch special with past features including biscuits and gravy, ful medames, and roasted cauliflower tacos. In addition to the specials and a full brunch menu they also have a different pancake every week and hard cider mimosas.
At this point, you may be in a food coma and ready to head back home. However, if you're looking to squeeze out one last adventure, let me give you three options that will make Chattanooga unforgettable:
#1 – Scale the side of a building by climbing at High Point Climbing Gym.
#2 – Rent a paddle board or kayak and paddle the Tennessee River.
#3 – Hang glide from the top of Lookout Mountain.
If you complete any one of these, you are a certified, five-star Chattavegan!
So there you have it, a trip to Chattanooga with all the vegan food and adventure that I could possibly stuff into a single weekend. If you have any other tips or suggestions we'd love to hear about them. Please follow chattavegan on Facebook or Instagram and keep in touch. A huge thank you to Emily at Knoxvegan for allowing us to guest post, and I hope to meet all of you Knoxvegans at Gentle Barn TN and Sanctuary Vegan Cafe on my future Knoxville trips!