After a Friday night out on the town, Lionel and our brothers, Michael and Jason, all woke up late Saturday morning and decided to head out for breakfast. We knew exactly where to go, since friends had been recommending the same place since we’d first moved to Chattanooga, so to Aretha Frankenstein’s we headed.
We arrived about noon and drove up and down the tiny, residential streets for some time, looking for a spot to park. Finally, we were out of the car and up the quaint stone stairs to the front porch.
At first, we mistook the customers sitting outside as people who had already been seated and were waiting for food. However, when we went up to the door and gave the host our name, we realized our mistake. The people scattered about the front porch were the line to get in.
We’d expected to wait. We’d been told by all our friends we would have to wait. But we really didn’t think it would take the whole hour the host estimated for us to get in.
We were wrong.
“I guess when you come here, you better not come already hungry,” Lionel bemoaned as we watched other patrons go inside on their turn. “You might starve while waiting.”
Finally, the name the host called was ours, and the four of us eagerly hurried inside. Once we were seated, I understood the reason for the wait time. There were only 5 tables and a bar.
When I spoke to the server, he told me the restaurant was at capacity at 29, including the staff. They typically won’t seat tables with more than six people. On Saturdays and Sundays, from 7 a.m. - 2 p.m. the wait is typically one to two hours long. During the week, it lessens up a bit earlier--around noon.
Since we’d had so much time outside the restaurant, we all had pulled the menu up on our phones and decided what we’d be ordering. Even so, it still took quite a while for the food to be made.
While we were waiting, again, we took in the atmosphere. Board games, posters, and the fronts of cereal boxes had been framed and hung up all over the walls. Classic metal played overhead, bands like Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden, and Megadeath. Every item in the place was tailored specifically to the eclectic aesthetic. I’ve never been in a restaurant quite like it.
When our food finally arrived we were famished, which turned out to be a good thing since the portions were surprisingly large for the prices.
Lionel ordered a breakfast burrito with onions, cheese, red pepper, and sausage ($6.95). It came with fried potatoes, made with jalapeños and onions, and a biscuit. Jason, his brother, also went for the breakfast burrito, his with onions, spinach, cheese, and refried beans ($6.95). He chose cheese grits and a biscuit for his side.
My brother, Michael, got a plate of french toast ($5.95). It didn’t come with anything else, so he ordered a side of biscuits and gravy ($2.50). I wanted a classic breakfast feast, so I got 3 eggs, with applewood bacon ($6.95). My plate also came with a choice of toast or a biscuit, fried potatoes or grits, so I got a biscuit and grits. Just to make sure we’d covered the basics, I also ordered a single pancake ($2.75).
The food was fantastic—all of it. Everyone absolutely loved what they’d gotten. The flavors were unique all around. None of us had ever had potatoes, grits, or sausage gravy quite like we had that morning. The pancake was thick—like an actual cake—and looked like it had been fried in a cast iron skillet. It was buttery, with a consistency rather different than I was used it.
Lionel loved his potatoes. He kept raving about them. Michael couldn’t get over his french toast. Jason and I were huge fans of the grits. We were warned they had a spicy kick, and they did, but they turned out to be my favorite part of the meal.
Without a doubt, the wait was worth every minute.
Though he was busy, our server took the time to keep our coffee mugs filled and chatted with us a bit about the restaurant itself. He said even though the place is so popular, there’s no plan to ever expand or move. The spirit of Aretha Frankenstein’s is what it is and intends very much to stay that way.
He also told us that the restaurant was owned by the same partners as the ones who owned Crust Pizza and Sofa King Juicy Burger, which did not come as a surprise, since I have tried and enjoyed the latter.
In the evenings, we were told the atmosphere of Aretha Frankenstein’s changes a bit. He said it becomes less of a family environment and turns into more of a typical bar.
When we exited the restaurant, stuffed and happy, Lionel changed his mind about just what advice he’d tell others.
“You should come here hungry, even with the wait,” he said.
He was right. Even with four starving adults, we’d had to box up our leftovers to-go.
As we walked down the front porch steps, we noticed a screen and projector outside. I asked a server about it, curious.
And right there, Lionel and I fell in love with the place all over again.
Apparently, Aretha Frankenstein’s often runs old, black-and-white B-horror movies on the porch when the weather is nice.
We would definitely be coming back for that.
Hours: Every Day 7 a.m. - midnight
Location: 518 Tremont Street, Chattanooga, Tn 37405