Purple Daisy Picnic Cafe-July 6, 2012

My mom and I have been trying to make it back to the Purple Daisy for, like, two years now.  All the way in St. Elmo, it’s not exactly close….but since we were taking my aunt to the Lodge Outlet in South Pittsburg on Friday (where she and my mom cleaned up, by the way! If you haven’t been, you should go…) that provided us the perfect opportunity to stop off.

The Purple Daisy is a pretty small place, two rooms packed with tables and some seating out front (though somehow they manage to fit quite a few people in without crowding everyone).  One room is bright and airy, the other room a little darker, but somehow that’s not an issue.  The first thing that you notice when you walk in is the cheery decor-bandannas tied together hanging over a high window, Christmas lights (the kind contained within plastic tubing) hanging on the wall, lots of cool retro items like metal lunch boxes and a wooden ironing board hanging up.  My aunt pointed out that there was a picnic basket like my grandparents used to have on a shelf, and my mom saw a lunch box like my other grandfather (Papaw) used to take to his job as an ironworker.  In the bathrooms, the sinks are metal washbasins.  Cool stuff.  Adding to the atmosphere is the intoxicating scent of smoke (as in from the smoker).  Yum.

The Purple Daisy is a very casual atmosphere, but they will seat you, give you a menu, and come take your order at your table.  There were several specials listed on a folding whiteboard outside the door, including brisket and pork or chicken tacos.  My mom ordered their fruit tea, which is pretty much brimming with pineapple juice and is very yummy, I ordered water, and my aunt ordered unsweetened tea (she’s from Texas, which I do not officially consider the South).  The Purple Daisy’s menu consists of a “build your own sandwich”, which features chicken salad, pimento cheese, cucumber spread, and a variety of breads, meats, cheeses, and veggies.  Purple Daisy is known for their barbecue (which I have yet to try) which can be ordered in plate form, on a sandwich, or atop a gigantic baked potato or plate of nachos.  They also have quesadillas, grilled cheese, hot dogs (grilled), salads, chili, a smoked chicken sandwich (with or without buffalo sauce), and hamburgers (charcoal grilled) that are served on Thursday and Friday only.

I’ll admit, I haven’t tried any of the above items.  I should, I know, but I can’t.  Why not, you say?  Because I have been rendered unable to order anything but the Rainbow Sandwich.  What’s that?  Oh, let me tell you.  The Rainbow Sandwich is (and this is the menu description): A three-layered sandwich with homemade chicken salad, pimento cheese, and cucumber spread on crustless white and wheat bread served with chips and a pickle.


Help me.


I love this sandwich so much.  The first time I came here, I didn’t know.  I ordered something like a roast beef with cheddar on sourdough.  It was good, sure…but one of the friends I was with had the Rainbow sandwich, and I was fascinated, so the next time I came, I had to have it.  I was a little unsure of “cucumber spread”….but it’s wonderful.  Cucumbers and cream cheese are the main ingredients.  The pimento cheese is homemade, and you can see the little shreds of cheese.  The chicken salad is made with smoked chicken.  The person that dreamed this up is a genius, I tell you.  Look at the pretty layers of white and wheat bread.  This is one of the few occasions where I love just plain old soft white bread.  I always know I shouldn’t eat the whole thing-that’s four slices of bread!-but I  always do.  Because it’s goooooooood.  And as my side, I always sub hash brown casserole for the chips.  If you haven’t had hash brown casserole…..mmmm.  My mom makes it all the time, so it’s definitely a comfort food for me.  Creamy, with mushroom soup, butter, onions, and cheese, served piping hot with paprika sprinkled over the top, theirs is very “authentic”.  Not a culinary opus…but sometimes you don’t want a culinary opus.  You want comfort.  In a styrofoam cup. By the way, they also have slaw, hot slaw, baked beans, and potato salad as sides.

My mom ordered exactly the same thing as me, and my aunt (the vegan), ordered a baked potato with butter (she cheated a little!) and chives (which were actually green onions).  I didn’t take a picture because I figured hey, we’ve all seen a baked potato.  Only I should have taken a picture because it was seriously the size of the basket.  Gigantic, I tell you.  There’s not a whole lot to say about a baked potato, but hers was nice and fluffy, with plenty of butter and onions on top.  It looked delish (I love baked potatoes).

We were all pretty much stuffed when we got done (my mom and I had, after all, just eaten the equivalent of two sandwiches), but if we had been so inclined we could have ordered banana pudding (which, the menu proclaims, was voted Chattanooga’s best 2009) or Alabama dirt (which I know as dirt cake, and if you’ve never heard of dirt cake you aren’t from Tennessee.  It’s basically chocolate pudding, Cool Whip or whipped cream, and Oreo crumbs.).  Instead we eased on down the road to see what we could see at Lodge.

My only complaint about the Purple Daisy is the parking lot.  I despise their parking lot.  It’s tiny.  There are never any spaces available and even on those rare occasions when you can actually find a spot, it’s super-cramped.  It’s no big.  You can park next door at the Incline for $1.00 (for all day!).  That’s what we did….no finagling out of your space there.

If you want casual, delicious comfort food in the form of barbecue or a fantastic, creative sandwich, I highly recommend Purple Daisy (yes, I know I haven’t actually tried the barbecue.  But I have heard great things about it from people whose opinions I trust, and if the smell is any indication…yowza!). By the way, they also do catering. The Purple Daisy Picnic Café is located at 4001 St. Elmo Ave., Chattanooga, TN.  They are open Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday 12-4 p.m. You can call them at 423-822-6477.  Check out their website, http://www.thepurpledaisy.com.  You can also like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

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    • Chattavore says

      Thanks, Elizabeth! If you are ever in the St. Elmo (or even just the downtown) area at lunch time, you should give it a try! So good.

  1. Liz says

    It is DELICIOUS, but be VERY CAREFUL!! We went there twice while traveling from Colorado to Georgia and back (had to stop both ways!) and the waitress that took our order took the courtesy of giving herself a TEN DOLLAR TIP on a $20 bill (we tipped the usual 15-20% with about $2-$4). Well, the credit card bill arrives, and suddenly it’s the original $20 bill for the sandwiches, and then a separate $10 charge for the tip. Shameful. Horrifying (and untrustworthy with credit card information) staff, but the most wonderful food. I had the rainbow sandwich, and I would go back tomorrow if I could, and buy about 100 of them (last time I actually purchased 3 because it was a road trip!) – but I’d pay them in cash, and I would NOT leave a tip.


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