Filed by M. Trevor Higgins
The charred remains of Aretha Frankensteins arent yet a week old and what we already knew is becoming sadly clear: We miss her. Sure, Jeff promised to rebuild, but that doesnt satisfy our selfish need for comically large biscuits right now.
The aftermath of the fire cut wide and deep. Not three weeks ago I took a trio of Knoxville friends there for early morning Guinness and waffles. Arethas was, after all, a place you took your out-of-town friends. When told of the blaze my former roommate Hammett responded with a long-winded, wailing Noooooo.
The eulogies continued, from Tish Jackson, owner of Skin & Bones Day Spa next door:
My favorite thing about Arethas, other than the food, was sitting out in the courtyard and watching football on that huge screen on the wall, with a bunch of friends and other folks. There is nowhere else that you can do that, and it was so much fun.
I'm a good friend of Jeff's and there are so many other fond memories, but sitting outside in the fall watching the Vols is my favorite, and it's the kind of scene Jeff envisioned for Arethas. Hopefully it won't be too long until we can do it again.
From farther away, from former Chattanoogan Gina Brown, now living in New York City and working for The Daily Show:
I always admired Jeff for the work he put into Arethas. I dreamed of a mosaic floor like that one day in my home.
But, for me, Arethas was about the biscuits. The size, the irregular shape each was a one of a kind piece of art to me the sweet on top and abundance of good ol dough. You just can't beat it.
Several of the papers current and former employees took the loss hard. Many of the younger staffers here live only a few blocks away in North Chatt, and the place was the closest place for food and beer.
From Ashley Heher, now working for the AP in Indianapolis:
The biggest thing I remember about Arethas is that it was truly a neighborhood hangout that was more than just a neighborhood hangout. Every time I went I always saw people I knew: hippie North Chat residents, young families, even executives from First Tennessee. At one Halloween party before the place opened, Corker even made an appearance.
From our current higher ed reporter Dorie Turner:
One of the first times I ever ate at Arethas, owner Jeff Brakebill took my order. When I asked him to leave the onion and cheese off of the Tremonster, he furrowed his brow and looked at me in amazement. Why are you trying to ruin my sandwich? You're messing with perfection, he said straight-faced.
The menu, much like the rest of the place, was a work of art. Jeff took years to develop and perfect the recipes as he sanded, nailed and painted the run-down house that became Arethas. To him, anyone who changed the menu even slightly might as well have spit on the bar made of old doors. I got my sandwich the way I wanted it that day, but part of me wondered if I had come within a breath of perfection and missed it.
For me, my first impressions of the place held firm. I went there on a Saturday morning, with Hammett, shortly after I moved here. We sat on the porch near the kitchen door. And we sat. And we sat. And we sat in what became our introduction to service that was slow in Herculean proportions. The service that would, in mind boggling fashion, remain tortoise-like despite staff changes.
Our waiter was my now friend Graham Courter. In between busing tables and running out food he was singing, at top volume, Neil Diamonds Sweet Caroline. As he entered and left the kitchen Hammett and I were treated to the entire song, intermittently. As Graham would enter the kitchen the sound would drop. Moments later returned, only a few words later in the verse. The effect was that of turning the volume knob on the radio up and down rapidly.
I knew then that the place was different, and I had to return. Hopefully, I wont have to wait long.
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