The Yellow Deli
by Douglas Beliakoff
I have spent a lot of time in Atlanta on business lately and have had a great time trying new restaurants. Places like Einstein’s, The Flying Biscuit, and Sal Grosso’s Brazilian Steakhouse have quickly become new favorites. Not only because the food is always enjoyable, but also because each visit is always its own experience.
I am back in Chattanooga for the next couple of weeks and was hoping to continue that momentum of unique experiences when I happened upon The Yellow Deli. For months now, I have watched the transformation of this old building on McCallie Avenue and thought that the last thing that we needed in town was another deli. I also wondered how the new owners could possibly re-invent the sandwich and make a go of it.
Come to find out, The Yellow Deli is NOT just another deli and this is NOT the first time its owners, Gene and Marsha Spriggs have operated their business in Chattanooga. The Yellow Deli is fondly remembered by many Chattanoogans who lived here in the ‘70s and remember it as an experience of the heart. As we called a friend from our table she quipped, “I think my initials may be carved in one of the tables!”
If I had to come up with one word to describe my experience at The Yellow Deli, it would be “harmonious”. Not exactly your typical restaurant adjective, right? This is not a typical place. From the greeting at the door by the artist who was still painting new signs, to the warm and friendly group that took care of us while we were there, everyone moved and spoke in harmony. The place was busy (we took the only available table), but it couldn’t have been more peaceful.
We entered through the elaborate courtyard and fountain area and immediately noticed the aroma of fresh baked bread coming from the open windows of the bakery. This side entrance took us to the bakery and “to go” area. Through a large double door, we entered the main two story deli and began our search for a table with the guidance of several of the staff. Make sure you tour the entire place! The lofty upstairs, complete with a rustic dumbwaiter, is a comfortable place with a leather lounge area and several table for dining. We settled downstairs at one of the many handcrafted booths with a dimly lit bushel basket hanging overhead.
The atmosphere is a feast for the eyes. While very rustic and artistic, you can’t help but recognize the love and hard work that went in to every detail. The gingham curtains, burlap ceiling tiles, use of leathers, woods, and beautifully painted murals and artwork all have a ‘70s nostalgia feel that is both comforting and curious. If you are picturing a hippie yard sale, think again. There is tremendous talent and attention to detail everywhere you look!
“The Deli Rose” was featured at the top of the board and we quickly ordered two. This turned out to be a terrific sandwich with roast beef, corned beef, hot pepper cheese, provolone cheese, onions, tomato, with a hot ketchup sauce on an onion roll. It was steaming hot and delicious! To drink, our server recommended the Iced Peach Mate’, which was just cold enough, and sweet enough, to compliment the meal and cool things down. For dessert, we thoroughly enjoyed the Sweet Potato Pound Cake and the Cream Cheese Pie topped with fresh strawberries. I have talked about the pound cake for days now!
Truly a labor of love, this unique deli is open 24 hours a day Sunday-Friday and staffed by a community of Christians who “serve the fruit of the Spirit” with love, joy and peace. Gene Spriggs gave us a tour of the place before we left, made sure we took home fresh blueberry muffins, olive and rosemary bread from the bakery and a Freepaper full of history and information about their community.
Be sure to visit.
The Yellow Deli is situated next to UTC and not only draws a college crowd, but also families and business professionals alike. It is definitely a place for everyone and most definitely a harmonious experience.
The Yellow Deli
737 McCallie Avenue
Chattanooga, TN 37402