The wait is over as Chattanooga's Aretha Frankensteins reopens

·3 min read

Aug. 11—The wait is over.

Aretha Frankensteins, the popular restaurant on Tremont Avenue known for fluffy pancakes and waffles and long wait times for meals, has reopened after being shut down for 20 months.

Manager Corey Curtis said he believes the staff has found a way to fix those "legendary" long waits.

"Oh yeah, we knew all about it," he said. "I watched it happen in real time for 11 years."

The issue stemmed from the fact that the pancakes especially were made to order, which meant the blueberries or chocolate chips couldn't be added until ready to cook because it altered the texture of the batter, and if several people in your party ordered them, most of the griddle was used up for one table.

"It could take 25 minutes," he said.

Curtis said he has worked nearly every job at the restaurant for more than a decade and that the staff took the opportunity during the pandemic to figure out ways to streamline everything. A proofer was purchased which keeps a pre-cooked waffle or pancake at a constant temperature and now they are finished on the grill and served with a melange or compote as a side.

"It greatly cuts down on the wait," he said.

Gone from the menu are the French toast and tuna melt offerings.

Part of the reason for waiting to reopen was a lack of available cooks, but Curtis said he hired Eric Brown and Tony Mirrales as the cooks. Both have experience at the Flying Squirrel and St. John's, respectively. Curtis said the same staffing issues have led to evening hours being cut and the restaurant is now open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday Friday and from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

"It has actually worked out very well. Most of our business is breakfast and lunch."

He added that about 80% of the restaurant's clientele are tourists who have read or heard about the unique restaurant with the 1990s pop culture vibe either via travel magazines or cooking shows.

"It's a cool place with great music and stuff on the walls. You find something different every time you come in," Curtis said.

Aretha Frankensteins pancake mix is sold in grocery stores throughout the country.

Also, the draft beer equipment has been removed and Aretha's now focuses on craft beers and seltzers served in bottles and cans.

"There is so much diversity now. and the micro brewers change up their inventory so often it made sense," Curtis said.

"We also offer the classic stuff, as well. We sell the 16-ounce Guinness cans and people love that. Also, we sold more PBR than anyone else in town before the shutdown, according to our distributor. So that is here."

Aretha's offers 30 seats inside and 25 outside, and Curtis said it now has a hostess system that allows them to text customers when their tables are ready.

"We took the time away to streamline the whole system."

Contributed photo by Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.