Member Spotlight: Max Poppel Talks Flying Squirrel’s New Dining Experience

Max Poppel, co-owner, Flying Squirrel, and his business partner, Dan Rose, are no strangers to adapting their business to ongoing trends. In 2019, the restaurateurs temporarily extended Flying Squirrel’s Sunday brunch offerings to Saturday, based on the demand for Chattanooga brunch spots at the time. In 2020, Poppel and Rose met the challenge of creating a safe space to dine while social distancing. The pair have now extended the welcoming nature of the Crash Pad and Flying Squirrel to embrace families and businesses.  

“We changed from being 21 and up. It took us a better part of a decade to do that. We also now take reservations, so you don’t have to come out and wait in a long line. Those are both relatively new things that we do. We also have weather protection on the front patio,” Poppel says.

Image courtesy of Flying Squirrel

The mezzanine, which used to have couch seating and resembled a lounge, now has traditional dining tables. 

Flying Squirrel recently announced that they are open for business meetings and events. The restaurant is sectioned-off to allow for the staging of multiple events while remaining open and inviting. Poppel sat in a booth closest to Flying Squirrel’s impressive wooden entryway to talk to TREND about this new dining experience.  

TREND: How have you made the communal feel translate to Flying Squirrel from The Crash Pad next door? 

Poppel: We wanted the two of them to be very complimentary – a dining establishment and hostel can play off of each other very well. We knew we wanted to be able to serve liquor to our guests at The Crash Pad, and that’s where it started. We needed a liquor license and a kitchen, and we thought the area needed more dinner and night life. And that’s what we ended up doing at Flying Squirrel. We ended up in this beautiful building and wanted to have food and drinks to match it. That’s what we’re doing every day here.  

Image courtesy of Flying Squirrel

TREND: Are your guests from next door the same guests that you get at Flying Squirrel? 

Poppel:  Sure! All Crash Pad guests get a 20% off discount at Flying Squirrel, so we end up seeing them here too. We also have a partner program with other local businesses and welcome guests of all ages. You can come out and know that your kids will have a good time. Or if you’re a group of ladies in your 60s you will have fun here, even sit down and meet some new friends. 

TREND: What has surprised you the most about being in the Southside Historic District after 10 years? 

Poppel: We didn’t plan around being the next hot spot. There were a few businesses ahead of us trying to revive the area. We liked the vibe, but there wasn’t much going on here yet. We didn’t foresee all the great restauranteurs coming over. Station Street used to be 14th Street and was a back alley that was for dumpsters and staff smoke breaks. And now it’s an entertainment destination, including being one of maybe three open container streets in Tennessee.  

TREND: What inspired you to open the doors to other businesses as an event space? 

Poppel: With the new seating on the mezzanine, we found ourselves able to accommodate the corporate dining scene well by giving them something fresh and unique. There are so many amazing corporations that are headquartered here in Chattanooga, and we just want to be on their radar for when they do anything for their own staff or bring people in town for training. We’re just getting on the radar now because we aren’t necessarily known for that.  

Flying Squirrel has undergone a lot of other changes since its opening in 2013, but food quality is a sense of pride. What signature dishes do foodies need to try right now? 

Poppel: Right now, we have a duck confit leg – and I’m just a sucker for duck – so check that one out. Then, for me, the spicy Korean “candy” chicken. I love it! It’s sweet, salty and umami. We also just added salmon tataki. I’m a big sushi guy and that scratches that itch like nothing else does. 

We pull inspiration from all sorts of genres of food. Sanders Parker, who is our chef, is just psyched on all aspects of cooking. So, there are some Asian influences, but we’re really pulling from culture around the world and highlighting local, quality ingredients. We let the food speak for itself and don’t get bogged down in the fanciness. Our food is high quality, but we want you to come as you are. We’re happy to serve you whether you’re dressed up for a special night out or wearing your favorite jeans and t-shirt.  

To learn more about Flying Squirrel, visit here 

To learn more about The Crash Pad, visit here  

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