518 Tremont St. (Chattanooga)
My Facebook friends who live in Chattanooga are always talking about a place called Aretha Frankensteins. There was no way I was leaving Chattanooga without eating there. Aretha's is located on the North side of Chattanooga, across the Tennessee River, where all of the hipsters live. It's one of those places that is super local and just can't be duplicated. It's like Brother Juniper's, but dare I say, cooler.
Aretha's serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, espresso, and beer. It's open from 7am to midnight everyday. These facts alone make it awesome in my book. Word on the street is that breakfast is the time to go, so we made plans to go on a Sunday morning. I knew that this would likely be a super busy time, but with such a short visit, it was then or never.
Thanks to Google maps we found it without too much trouble. It's nestled inside a very quirky, Cooper-Youngish neighborhood in an old house. It's pretty small, and it was a bit too cold to sit on the lovely patio, so we kept our fingers crossed as we approached. Turns out it was full, but there were only two people ahead of us in line. A waiter came over and took our name and said it would be about 15 minutes. He pointed to a family at the bar and said they were almost done and we could sit in their seats when they left. I was worried we might miss our pre-booked River Gorge ride on the other side of the river, but the waiter said we'd have time. I took his word for it and tried to relax.
We crouched in the doorway and took in the decor. There were lots of kitschy and spooky things hanging on (and from) the walls. I'm assuming that the spooky things are permanent considering the restaurant's name, but they might have been Halloween related. As we waited, more and more people started showing up. Some ordered coffee and drank it on the porch, others patiently chatted on the patio. I asked for a menu to peruse while we waited. We started planning our orders so we could be in and out.
The family at the bar finished up soon after, and we happily took their spots. The bar was expansive and so were the chairs. They were like big leather armchairs on stilts. Satchel and Jiro were getting a little loud with each other so I sat between them. They didn't like this, but I didn't budge. A cute little woman with a "Chattaboogie" t-shirt took our drink orders (coffee, Diet Coke, 2 waters) and Warren and I finalized the food order. Satchel wanted biscuits and gravy; Jiro wanted a breakfast burrito with eggs, cheese, and sausage; and Warren wanted the Polish omelette with sausage and peppers. I felt like someone should get pancakes, so a slim stack was my order by default. (Had I done a better job of examining the menu, I would have certainly ordered someone the Elephants Gerald which is a Belgian waffle topped with ice cream and pecans.)
To keep the very hungry and increasingly antsy monkeys busy, I let them take pictures with my camera and design various shapes and structures with toothpicks. Satchel and I could also see in the kitchen were a young man was making the biscuits. Above the kitchen door was a melted keyboard, which Warren and I found interesting. A little digging and I discovered that Aretha's burnt down a few years ago and had to be rebuilt, so it is likely a remnant. I also read, but did not actually see, that there is a table that is a working Pac Man game. Too bad we didn't sit there!
Our food came out in a timely fashion and we all dug in. Satchel's biscuits and gravy, despite being a half order, were huge! He ate every bite! Jiro's burrito was huge too, but he only made a dent in it. He was distracted my his large side of breakfast potatoes and his very own biscuit. Warren was too far away for me to get a good look at his breakfast, but he reported that it was tasty. My pancakes, also gigantic, were really, really good. So good, in fact, that I ate them plain. That's right, plain. (The pancake mix is sold in stores, and I can definitely see why.)
Our tab came to $28. We all had full bellies and a ton of leftovers (except Satchel). As we walked out, I couldn't believe how many people were waiting to get in. We definitely lucked out and beat the rush. Had we not been in a hurry to catch the boat, I would have insisted on strolling through the neighborhood. (I saw one house with a fence made of old bicycles!)
For the rest of our visit, Satchel asked at least 50 times if we could go back to Aretha's. I really wished we could.