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Take one part local food and one part approachable atmosphere; add craft cocktails and eight types of artisanal ice; combine those ingredients with two former Craftworks executives. The result is new Southside restaurant Stir

“We’ve added an oyster bar as well,” said Allen Corey, CEO and founder of SquareOne Holdings, whose leaders will own and operate the new restaurant. 

Corey and SquareOne Chief Operating Officer Robert Werk led Craftworks and helped bring it to the Southside before starting SquareOne Holdings two years ago. 

“It’s a story of putting the band back together,” Corey said of the company. 

SquareOne leaders also help other business owners with operational improvements and do restaurant consulting. Their clients include Knoxville’s Balter Brewery, North Carolina’s Carolina Brewery and Missouri’s Budweiser Brew House, according to the company’s website

When developers started talking about the Chattanooga Choo-Choo revamp, Corey and Werk thought it was a prime location for a new restaurant. 

They’ve invested about $2 million in Stir, which is slated to open Nov. 2 and is part of a larger redevelopment of the Choo-Choo complex. 

“We think there’s a lot of growth there,” Corey said. “We think there’s a lot of momentum and energy that goes with that. I think now is the time.”

Crews are currently updating the 5,300-square-foot space, which is located on the Choo-Choo storefront that faces Market Street and is adjacent to 14th Street from The Terminal.

There will be an outdoor balcony that will seat 100 people. Indoor seating will be available for more than 200 guests. 

The team has kept as much of the building’s historic integrity as possible. The space has high ceilings, large windows and a lot of natural light. 

“It’s a magnificent space,” Werk said. “They just truly don’t build them like that [now].”

The food
The menu will be “tight” at about 30 items, plus the oysters. The menu may change, but the foundation will be food that’s made from scratch with locally grown ingredients. 

They’ve spent a lot of time on research and development of the menu items, Corey said. 

“The oyster program will be second to none,” he said. 

Lunch and dinner will have different price points.

It will be easy to get a fairly inexpensive meal for lunch and get in and out relatively quickly, owners also said.

Customers can expect to see items such as wild-caught salmon cakes topped with citrus dill yogurt sauce, garnished with pickled shaved fennel and red onions. There will also be seared shrimp and scallop white cheddar macaroni and cheese, vegan oven-roasted root vegetables, and grilled chicken caprese. 

Corey mentioned that he thinks some items will be great for takeout, too. 

The cocktails, ice
The team is making a significant investment in tools, equipment and employees to create unique craft cocktails. 

“The bartenders will be the most highly trained mixologists that we’re aware of anywhere,” Corey said. 

They will all be BarSmarts-certified. 

There will be 350 drink brands from which customers can choose, in addition to wine and beer. 

Then there’s the ice, which will be made in-house.

“One of the main components in a cocktail is ice, and if the ice melts too quickly, it dilutes the drink very quickly,” Werk said.

The ice at Stir is made to prevent that problem.

The ice chef and Stir team will freeze the ice using a process that constantly agitates it to force all the impurities and air to the top of a 300-pound block of ice. 

Once it’s totally frozen, the team takes off the top, where the impurities are. From there, they will use a hoist to lift it and cut it with a band saw. 

They will use that block to create eight kinds of ice. There will be 1- and 2-inch rocks; there will be long rocks for drinks such as Tom Collinses. They will also have shaved, crushed and chipped ice.

There will be ice just for shaking and what Werk called “chewy ice,” which is similar to Sonic Drive-In ice. It will be used for the oysters and soft beverages. 

“The ice is a focal point and we want the guests to see what we’re doing,” Werk said. 

The atmosphere, space
The duo said that the atmosphere will be upbeat, friendly and cozy. 

Team members will wear jeans, and the duo joked that it can’t be too fancy or they wouldn’t be allowed inside. 

There will be a large bar that faces arching windows, an oyster bar where patrons can sit and a community table. There’s a patio that wraps around the outside, and a private event room with both indoor and outdoor seating. 

Parking will be free for guests on-site near 14th Street.