John Shearer: One Last Peek Inside Mt. Vernon Restaurant

Friday, January 26, 2018 - by John Shearer

With the online auction of the items at Mt. Vernon Restaurant on South Broad Street beginning Thursday and lasting through Saturday, Chattanoogans and others have had a last chance to walk inside the landmark eatery.

The door to the restaurant at the foot of Lookout Mountain was open Friday and will be as well on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon for people to glance inside and maybe also reminisce one last time about eating there and enjoying fellowship.

Friday morning, only a small number of people were walking through the 63-year-old former eatery, though, in part because the items being auctioned are also in photographs at the website of Gravitt Auctions and Appraisals.

But those who dropped by in person could not only reminisce about different places they sat and ate over the years, but also look for probably the first time into the kitchen, which featured several well-worn pieces of equipment from years of being used to make hot and fresh food.

Most of the tables and chairs and booths were as they were when the restaurant closed right before Christmas due to health issues of owner Jeff Messenger, but they now featured stacks of cups, saucers, plates and other dining utensils and other items on top of them.

The lobby and waiting area looked like it was missing a couch or two, and the familiar hostess stand -- which could also double as a lecture hall podium -- was sitting in that part of the restaurant a few feet from its normal location. A few of the nice chests and other pieces of furniture were still at their usual locations.

Besides the numerous pieces of cooking equipment, in the kitchen was a door leading out with specific instructions to the staff about using that door only for deliveries and to take out the trash. The staff was to exit and enter through the front door like the customers, the sign said.

Another, more familiar sign was a framed miniature chalkboard listing the entrees from the last meal, or last supper if you will. They included "turkey and dressing, ribeye steak, potato crusted haddock and fried pork chops."

It was obvious from a walk through that a lot of familiar items and furniture remained inside, but the sounds and scenes of workers busily taking care of customers, and customers enjoying meals and conversation, were nowhere to be found. 

The end of an era for this chapter in Chattanooga restaurant history had already passed, and that was what was most noticeable.

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