New Menu Items at the Blue Chair Café
by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer
A local favorite just got a bit of a makeover.
The Blue Chair Café and Bakery, which has been on the Mountain since 2000, debuted a new menu this month. Jimmy Wilson, who owns and operates the business with wife Sarah Wilson, said the partnership with Keri Downing of Octoπ is something he had been hoping for through the years.
Blue Chair favorites such as the Domain, the Tiger Bowl, the YSR! Omelet and the award-winning chicken salad are still available, but through a partnership with Downing, the menu has expanded to include homemade sweet cream biscuits and homemade gluten-free buckwheat waffles.
“To me, this collaboration is about keeping an establishment open that’s been open since 2000 that was started to help a social enterprise, The Blue Monarch. Our biggest competitor is the University, and the Blue Chair is kind of our Cheers here,” he said. “Now, the menu is more breakfast and brunch, rather than breakfast and lunch.”
Wilson said maintaining that Cheers vibe is important to him. The Blue Chair’s tagline is “Where Our Community Gathers,” but more importantly, it is crucial to the community.
“It costs a lot of money to have a place where everybody knows your name. We have been trying to survive in the Village and we are collaborative. We’ve lost Crust, Julia’s, Crossroads. The ones that are still here, we’re all hanging on by our nails until the bookstore opens up,” he said.
The community feel is important to Downing as well — she said the work is half cooking and half community, and without that aspect, she is not as interested.
“I started cooking at seven when my mom taught me how to fry and boil an egg and make toast — then she abandoned me in the kitchen. I love my mother, and she will tell you she cannot cook. I like to think I like to cook through sheer force of will,” she said.
“The biscuit came to use from me playing around with it and we had to do something with it. I wanted to see what we could do with a biscuit. In February, we decided we were coming up with something seasonal. I had never made a biscuit before, and that is exactly why I wanted to try. We sat down and tried that biscuit, and we knew we had something special.”
In addition to the community feel, Downing said to be able to honor the area’s Southern roots through the addition of dishes built around homemade sweet cream biscuits was exciting.
“The Blue Chair has always been this traditional southern place. You don’t want to mess with those roots. This is a place where the southern community gathers around southern food, and that is the heart of it. To give into that and explore it was what got me excited about this menu,” she said. “I was really excited about the Head Honcho because I love the idea of a barbecue biscuit. As the menu actually came together, the Here Kitty Kitty is definitely my favorite.”
The Here Kitty Kitty is a sweet cream biscuit, a stone ground grit-crusted catfish filet, homemade coleslaw and orange marmalade. Wilson said one of his favorites is the Music City Yard Bird, which is a boneless Nashville Hot Chicken thigh, homemade pimento cheese, spring mix and tomato atop a sweet cream biscuit and served alongside homemade ranch dressing.
“There’s such a wonderful explosion of flavors and textures. It’s just a really special dish, and it’s a little less spicy than somewhere like Prince’s or Hattie B’s so more folks can enjoy it,” she said. “With most of my food, the inspiration comes from ADD and just being obsessed with food. I spend way more time than any human should thinking about food, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The Blue Chair is currently operating from its new menu and invites the community to come sample the new creations. The Blue Chair is proud to provide the cafe and tavern facilities, as well as financial support, to Coffee with Coach, Tuesday Night Trivia, Sewanee Spoken Word, Thirst for Knowledge, Sewanee Business Alliance, Village Development Update and more. The Blue Chair is operated in support of The Blue Monarch and The OUTsideIN.
For more information or with any questions about the new menu, call (931) 598-5434.