We've got five breakfast spots so delicious they might cure your snooze-button addiction.
129 North Market Street
Open Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Whether you like them over easy, scrambled or in an omelet, all eggs at The Long Horn Restaurant are served with a heavy dose of nostalgia. A 16-stool lunch counter accounts for most of the seating in this tiny diner, save for the row of two-seater booths lining the front bay windows. Wagon wheel chandeliers hang above the open kitchen, while an enormous pair of longhorn antlers adorns the back wall. At the helm of the griddle most mornings is Yvonne Williams, who's flipped the signature omelets for 52 of the restaurant's 53 years in business. Best known for her Western omelet - a conglomeration of cheese, onion, tomato, peppers and ham - Williams also coaxes hungry Chattanoogans out of bed with the restaurant's signature Belgian waffles and blueberry pancakes.
Local politicians to construction workers, housewives to grandmothers all convene at this breakfast institution, with many regulars being fourth or fifth generation diners. "You never know who's going to come through the door," says owner Susan Danner. "We looked up the other day and Wynona Judd was sitting at the counter." Clyde Whisenant and Floyd Russell have started nearly every morning at The Long Horn for the past 22 and 50 years, respectively. In fact, their connection to the breakfast institution goes beyond eggs and toast. As owner of a steel manufacturing company, Russell fabricated the steel beams that make up the restaurant's trademark multi-angled roof, while professional painter Whisenant has put several coats on the ceiling over the years.
55 East Main Street
Open Tuesday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Everywhere the Worshams go, good food is sure to follow. As an Eastern Orthodox priest, Jonas Worsham and his family have crisscrossed the country, opening five restaurants before their Southside endeavor in 2007. Fingerprints of the family are found throughout the Bluegrass Grill, from pictures of their son Greg's latest fishing tournament to the Greek influence on the menu (Father Jonas' first job in seminary was at a Greek restaurant). Three of the Worsham's four children pull regular shifts, with daughter Nina driving home from Sewanee every weekend and Ben, age 14, working after school. "There's no separation between us and the restaurant," explains wife Joan Marie. "It's been a real gift to do this with my children."
Walking into the homey breakfast spot you're immediately struck by the expansive Blue Ridge Mountain mural as well as the soft sounds of fiddle and banjo emanating from the speakers. Housed in a building from the early 1900s, brick walls and slanted wooden floors add to the restaurant's Appalachian charm. "When you make an omelet it runs toward the front door," laughs Joan Marie. With a focus on fresh, local and made-from-scratch food, Bluegrass standouts include French toast, made with homemade bread, as well as homemade whole-wheat buttermilk biscuits and gravy.
With a menu that runs the gamut from tofu to jalapeno bacon, Bluegrass attracts a wide variety of clientele, from businessmen to college kids. "You really can't beat the atmosphere - even though you've got people coming in from every walk of life, they really make you feel comfortable," says contractor Tim Whitener. Ever since getting a job down the street he's frequented Bluegrass "at least once a day." Other regulars include Eleanor and John Petrey, empty nesters who recently moved from California to be with their son. "You feel at home regardless," says Eleanor. "Especially Joan Marie, she's what draws us back. She just greets us like we were family."
7641 Lee Highway or 901 Carter Street
Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
"Bigger is better" seems to be the mantra behind this 24-hour diner. Best known for colossal cakes, which greet customers in brightly lit rotating pastry cases, City Café also offers a breakfast fit for Goliath. One of the most popular is the City Café Special - bacon, sausage, pancakes, eggs and a mountain of homemade home fries. "Nobody leaves City Café hungry," laughs manager Gary Haworth. "Almost everybody leaves with a to-go box."
Opened eight years ago by New York native Lee Epstein, the décor has all the trappings of a vintage big city diner, including black-and-white marble walls accented with mirrors and neon signs, which advertise everything from sandwiches to seafood. Sitting down at the bright purple booths you're greeted with another behemoth - the restaurant's seven-page menu. Offering a smattering of everything - seafood, Italian, Greek, Mexican - some breakfast standouts include the quesadilla omelet, an onion, tomato, avocado and cheese omelet stuffed in a 12-inch quesadilla, as well as the pigs in a blanket, three sausage links rolled in extra large pancakes dusted with powdered sugar. And of course, there's always cake.
"We don't have any regulars, we have people who've become part of the family at City Café," says Haworth. "We treat the people who come on a consistent basis like family. That's why we're so successful." Dennis Graham agrees, noting the friendliness of the staff as one of the main reasons for his three to four visits a week. He discovered the tucked away café shortly after moving to Chattanooga from New York to be closer to family. "I get the same thing every time - a single scrambled egg and a bagel," says the slender retiree. "It's four dollars and a quarter and you can't beat it," he says with a smile.
1600 McCallie Avenue or 6521 Ringgold Road
Open Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
If Wally's spacious downtown dining room looks a bit too spiffy to be celebrating its 75th birthday, that's because they've had to rebuild it after a fire...three times. With the latest renovation taking place in 1999, the relatively new interior still harkens back to the glory days of diners with a diamond-shaped pressed tin wall behind the lunch counter and checkerboard floor. And while this phoenix eatery has endured several renovations
since its days as a carhop drive-in, it's only had two owners since opening in 1937. Since buying the restaurant in 1971 from Wally himself, current owner Tony Kennedy has enjoyed maybe two vacations, says Gary Meadows. He now co-owns the restaurant's two locations with Kennedy and his brother, Glen. And the owners aren't the only ones with staying power - most employees boast double-digit tenures. This stability translates to better service, says Meadows. "We're like a family and we treat all of our customers like family," he says. Some menu notables include buttermilk biscuits - made fresh each morning at 4 a.m. - as well as country ham, western omelets and homemade pies for those who prefer a sweet start to the day.
Wally's regulars like to get a jump on the day, with some even standing at the door before its 6 a.m. opening. A mid-week rush usually includes several father/son breakfasts thanks to McCallie's later classes on Wednesday, and Friday usually brings several Christian men's groups. In fact Wally's attracts numerous civic groups throughout the week, but there's usually a seat thanks to the expansive 150-person dining room at the downtown location.
518 Tremont Street
Open 7 a.m. until midnight every day
Much like the monster for which the restaurant is named, the made-from-scratch biscuits, waffles and pancakes at Aretha Frankenstein's are outlandishly large (and freakishly good). Roughly 10 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick, Aretha's waffles made the map in 2005 when profiled on Rachael Ray's "$40 A Day" show. Today, the pancakes steal the show with a top-secret recipe stitched together by owner and culinary mad scientist Jeff Brakebill. Located in a renovated house in North Chattanooga, the décor of this funky eatery is an eclectic accumulation of vintage lunch boxes, a copper diving helmet used as a bar tap and a Pac-Man table. Above the door to the kitchen hang the remains of Aretha's first computer keyboard, melted in a 2006 fire that gutted the North Chattanooga turquoise house. A little known menu fact - add the Maine wild blueberries to the pancakes and ask for the homemade apple butter with the biscuits for a special treat.
Any given day you'll find a diverse mix of diners at Aretha's, ranging from 50-something businessmen to 20-something Tremonsters - the hip, creative types that live nearby. Regulars usually visit in the evenings to avoid scary crowds, the worst being a weekend morning. With a tiny kitchen that makes everything to order for the 24-seat dining room, guests must prescribe to a slow food attitude. This is alleviated a bit when the patio is open, but according to front of house manager David Reavis, most guests understand. "We've got a good amount of regular families that swear by the food and are willing to wait. I've seen people wait two-and-a-half hours for a meal and not mind it at all," he says. "Of course we try our best to get people in and fed as quickly as possible."