The multiple YMCA locations in metropolitan Chattanooga serve more than 37,000 members a year and fulfill the mission of uniting guests regardless of gender, age, faith, background, abilities, or income. Founded in London in 1844, the YMCA spread to its Chattanooga home in 1871 and continues to operate with help from local community volunteers as stalwart as I Love Lucy syndicators. Each location caters to the needs of children, teens, seniors, and families with afterschool programs and fitness-based activities. Cardio machines pump hearts, racquetball courts host fun competitions, and pools allow goggles to fulfill their original purpose: snapping the face with their elastic band to make a diver jump off the blocks faster. A sauna and steam room heat clients up after they cool down in the pools, and parents can drop their young children off at the nursery before participating in group fitness classes.
Longtime residents Steve Rabb and Shannon Fannin often thought about ways to improve downtown Woodstock. They wanted to see the area become more sophisticated, so one night over dinner they casually discussed a concept of gourmet food and cocktails prepared with simple, raw flavors. The couple had no idea that, within a matter of months, this concept would grow into a chic, downtown eatery: Wink Woodstock. A menu of small plates—favorites include steak empanadas, shrimp and grits, and charcuterie and cheese samplers—complements Wink’s diverse selection of red and white wines. Behind a steel-topped bar, bartenders mix signature cocktails, known as Winktinis, from infused vodkas and specialty garnishes such as raw lemon sugar, graham crackers, and olive-scented fireworks. According to Patch, Fannin drew on her background in interior design to produce a layout representative of both sexy LA nightclubs and downtown Atlanta bars. Steely grays, vivid purples, and electric teals flow throughout the open bar space and into themed areas such as a pillow room and VIP booth.
For more than 70 years, jewels used to fill the African mahogany cases lining Sapphire's walls. The dark wooden cabinets remain, although they now brim with more than 40 kinds of vodka, Tennessee and Kentucky whiskeys, and rums from Central and South America. Sapphire may no longer drape its customers in precious gemstones, but it does aim to preserve the sense of elegant refinement that characterized the historic building for decades.
This commitment is readily apparent in the menu of upscale southern cuisine, which includes Tennessee cheeses from Sweetwater Farms, bacon and ham from nearby Benton's, and seasonal produce from local farms. These ingredients appear throughout the selection of regionally inspired dishes. Some dishes, such as the Louisiana-crawfish-stuffed hushpuppies with cajun remoulade, assertively announce their southern roots, whereas others show a bit more restraint, such as beef-tenderloin medallions, which arrive with a simple southern succotash.
On Thursday through Saturday evenings, the elegant environment in the long, narrow room becomes livelier as the night progresses and DJs begin their sets. Upbeat rhythms echo off the high ceilings and the vintage mahogany woodwork while patrons enjoy one of the martinis that earned Sapphire a spot on Metro Pulse's Best of Knoxville 2012 list.
A few finger-taps on the digital screens inside Ai Tunes Karaoke Lounge's private karaoke rooms unlock more than 70,000 songs in English, Korean, Cantonese, Mandarin, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, or Japanese for guest singers to choose from. Servers visit the rooms to take orders for tapas and entrees that range from Asian noodles to stone-baked naan wraps. They also pour draft beer and mix sake bombs or cocktails such as the French Connection—a smooth blend of Hennessy and Grand Marnier.
Deemed the "Best Night Out" in Chattanooga by US Travel and Attractions for two years in a row, Vaudeville Cafe is an entertainment chameleon. On some nights, the tables at the spacious dinner theater are packed with families savoring Italian feasts as they try to solve original murder mysteries. Weekend nights have a more adult slant as headlining standup comedians seen on HBO and Comedy Central garner guffaws while guests enjoy a full bar of cocktails, wine, and frozen specialty drinks. But regardless of the event, every evening brims with jolly vaudeville spirit, and every seat in the house offers stellar views of the stage and napping spotlight operator.
Since opening its doors in 1985, the recently renovated Comedy Catch has induced giggle fits with performances helmed by famed jesters such as Bobcat Goldthwait and Jerry Seinfeld. The main showroom comfortably seats up to 250 guests, with a crystal-clear audio setup preventing punch lines from getting lost in the laughter. Downstairs, the Giggles Grill serves a savory menu of steak, fried shrimp, and tall drinks to replenish calories lost chuckling or trying to huff, puff, and blow the venue’s brick walls down.