I had a simple plan for my first visit to The Chattanooga Cookie: grab two cookies and leave.
I wasn’t planning a heist so I didn’t think I needed a guy in a van feeding me timestamps through an ear bud:
“You’re inside. Good job. You have three minutes.”
“Two minutes left! Order a chocolate chip and a snickerdoodle and get out!”
“Thirty seconds! It’s time to leave! Can you see the exit?”
In retrospect, I should’ve had a guy in a van because the moment I met Megan McClain, one of the owners, my plan fell apart like dry cake.
McClain and her twin sister, Jessica McDaniel, are the co-owners of The Chattanooga Cookie, a new specialty bakery on the Northshore.
McDaniel is a self-taught baker who perfected her recipes and then started selling cookies from her home in Missouri when the pandemic shut down schools in 2020.
The local response was so extraordinary, McClain convinced her sister to move to Chattanooga at the end of 2021 so they could launch their company.
I visited The Chattanooga Cookie during its soft opening July 29, when they filled their racks, unlocked their doors and gave a free cookie to everyone who stopped by.
I intended to claim my freebie and purchase a second cookie – in the interest of supporting a new business, I told myself.
But when I told McClain I was going to write a small article about her cookies, she suggested I purchase a box of four.
Cue the footage of dry cake crumbling.
Before I could say, “I’d better not; I’m watching my waist,” McClain grabbed my elbow and steered me to the display, where dozens of cookies were standing on their edges and lined up in rows, like Oreos in a package.
These were not massed produced treats, however, but plump creations formed one at a time by loving hands. And from the Brown Butter Snickerdoodles to the French Vanilla Sugar Cookies, they looked scrumptious.
Next to these modern spins on timeless favorites were a number of unexpected offerings like Peanut Butter White Chocolate, Chocolate Extreme and Chocolate Chip-less cookies.
“We’ve seen people go weak in the knees after tasting our cookies,” McClain said, smiling like a temptress. “And we’ve heard a lot of colorful language as they try to describe our product.”
I assumed McClain was giving me the spiel, but then she took me around a corner and down a short hallway, where the entire left wall is a window that allows customers to watch the cooking-making crew at work.
As a woman dressed in an AC/DC hoodie and a pair of blue jeans rolled snickerdoodle dough into large lumps and then placed them on baking sheets, another lady hoisted a large bowl filled with sticks of butter and carried it across the kitchen to where another bowl of the same was waiting on a prep table.
“That’s a lot of butter,” I remarked. “I think it’s all of the butter.”
McClain then pointed toward a small area in the back of the store, where seating is available for a dozen or so patrons.
As we returned to the lobby, McClain’s husband rolled a rack of freshly baked chocolate chips cookies out of the kitchen. Although there was already a tray of chocolate chip cookies in the display, I knew what my freebie was going to be.
(Visiting a bakery is all about timing. I once stumbled into Julie Darling Donuts as they were wheeling out a rack of freshly made Blueberry Darlings, and I still feel wistful when I think about how over-the-top delicious they were.)
Picking four more was easy – I selected a Brown Butter Snickerdoodle, a French Vanilla Sugar Cookie, a Peanut Butter White Chocolate and a Chocolate Extreme – and then I was walking out the door.
After driving off, I realized I’d made a tactical error: I should have also ordered a bottle of milk.
Remembering the tortured souls on the “Got milk?” commercials – including the one in which a guy who had an abundance of cookies but no milk realized he was in hell – I left my stash alone until I returned home.
And then I dug in.
When it comes to food, there seems to be a threshold most establishments never cross. You might like Dunkin’ Donuts, but they’re no Julie Darling Donuts, for example.
Then there’s the rare proprietor that rises to greatness. Chattanooga Cupcake on Broad Street was one such bakery before it closed and Cupcake Kitchen moved in. I once wrote that Chattanooga Cupcake’s creations were “velvety treats that become a Siren’s call that lures the hungry and weak-willed back for more.”
I quickly realized McClain and McDaniel were not attendants in hell; rather, their cookies taste as though they’re made in heaven.
My eyebrows raised as I bit into the chocolate chip cookie. It was – to use an overused superlative – amazing. The snickerdoodle contained a perfect pairing of cinnamon and brown sugar and had enough of a buttery taste to make Food Network star Paula Deen smack her lips. But my favorite was the peanut butter cookie, which was as tasty as the ones my mother made when I was a child.
After washing down my third cookie with a swallow of cold milk, I thought it would be wise to save the rest for another day. They’re still in my kitchen, chanting a Siren’s call that’s hard to ignore.
If you live downtown, perhaps you can hear that call, too. It’s emanating from next to Starbucks on Cherokee Boulevard. If you feel compelled to respond, the bakery is open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.
Just be sure to take a guy in a van with you.
Website, Facebook, Instagram