Breakfast food and restaurants that specialize in serving breakfast generally have a rustic, refined or genteel feel. Dishes such as eggs Benedict, Belgian waffles and scones imply a sense of calm and elegance as well as a dainty atmosphere.
Yeah, I'll pass on that.
What about those of us who want a good hearty breakfast with a more gritty vibe? Where's that rock and roll breakfast joint where one can get a good meal to start the day, especially if last night's revelry perhaps hasn't technically ended yet? Or maybe we just want a good pancake without all the fancy trappings of an English tea room.
For those of us in that category, there's Aretha Frankensteins on Tremont Street in North Chattanooga. Aretha's has been serving good food in a tiny space with a gritty, artsy vibe since 2004.
Owner Jeff Brakebill built the restaurant himself, converting a small house in a mainly residential area into his vision for breakfast nirvana. The building has a small courtyard and a wraparound porch on the outside; a small dining area and bar inside.
The chalkboard out front is famous in its own right, with drawings by local artist Tony Mraz that often honor the passing of local or national celebrities with amazing and touching portraits.
The building was devastated by a fire 13 years ago, and signs of that disaster can be seen if you look closely. But Brakebill and his team quickly rebuilt and got back to slinging pancakes.
The only guaranteed spots for getting served are the inside tables and bar area; the only parking is whatever you can find on the street. You want convenient parking and quick seating for your party of 12? Go to Cracker Barrel.
Aretha's primary claim to fame is its pancakes. They are uniquely thick and fluffy and what most visitors for breakfast are looking for. You can even take the taste of Aretha's home with you, because the signature pancake and waffle mix can be purchased at the restaurant.
But there's more to the menu than just pancakes. A full breakfast menu is available with such dishes as shrimp and grits ($10.25), omelettes ($7.95-$9.95), a breakfast burrito ($7.95), country ham and three eggs ($9.95) and Polish eggs, which are three eggs scrambled with mushrooms, onion, red peppers, provolone cheese and Polish sausage for $9.75.
And while breakfast is the focus, Aretha's is open all day and late into the night serving a variety of sandwiches, burritos, quesadillas and salads.
On an early Saturday morning, I was lucky to snag a spot on the porch and be offered the chance to order and eat my meal outside. This is not guaranteed, but the staff tries to offer this option when they aren't too busy and you have a small group.
I started with an order of three scrambled eggs served with bacon, toast and fried potatoes. The bacon was perfectly cooked, and the eggs and potatoes were tasty and filling. It was a great breakfast in a perfect spot to start the weekend.
I chose to end my morning meal with a single pancake, and it was as good as advertised. Amazingly thick and fluffy enough to soak up butter and syrup. After eggs and bacon, one pancake was more than enough.
Being a solo guest was to my benefit in getting a seat quickly. My order was taken and served promptly. With so few seats, the staff of Aretha's has an incentive to get food out and turn tables quickly, so food is prepared quickly and served promptly.
As mentioned previously, Aretha Frankensteins is a small and quirky space, with a small kitchen and a small staff. The host kept guests informed of wait times, and servers were hustling plates of food in and out at a good pace. But there was still a long wait for seating — and that wait grew longer as more customers arrived throughout the morning.
When you visit, just expect a wait and be patient. The staff at Aretha's know what they're doing, and they'll get you seated and served as quickly as they can.
Aretha's consistently is mentioned by travel writers who visit Chattanooga because of its quirky vibe, great pancakes and good drinks. This notice means that weekends are busy, but the payoff for patience comes in the form of a great breakfast and perhaps a box of pancake mix to take home.
Aretha Frankensteins is worth the wait.
If you go
* Where: Aretha Frankensteins, 518 Tremont St.
* Hours: 7 a.m.-midnight daily
* Price range: $3.25 for egg biscuit to $10.25 for shrimp and grits
* Alcohol: Yes
* Phone: 423-265-SOUL (7685)
* Website: www.arethas.com
Contact Jim Tanner at JFTanner@gmail.com. Follow him at twitter.com/JFTanner.