Are inch-thick pancakes and Waffles of Insane Greatness coming to the Scruffy City? Chattanooga’s cult-favorite breakfast spot Aretha Frankenstein’s is taking steps to open a location in South Knoxville.
Construction permits obtained via a public records request show plans to open the restaurant at 3318 Chapman Highway, the site of a Hardee’s that closed during the pandemic. The building’s fresh coat of paint – teal blue – matches the original Aretha’s.
Jake and Taylor Ogle, owners of Ogle Brothers General Store in Sevierville and Scrambled Jake’s Breakfast Company on Northshore Drive, bought the property in February 2021 and confirmed Aretha’s is coming to Knoxville.
Thank the Ogles for recruiting the breakfast spot.
“We’ve always been big fans and admirers of Aretha’s. It’s such a unique, authentic concept that is really hard to describe, but rather must be experienced,” Jake Ogle told Knox News. “After having preliminary discussions with the folks at Aretha’s about the Knoxville market, we both felt that South Knoxville was the perfect spot for it considering the demographics and the outdoor driven, active mentality and lifestyle of the community.”
The new location would be a first expansion for the restaurant, which has served all-day breakfast, as well as lunchtime Tex-Mex and sandwiches, for 20 years in a once-rundown house on the north shore of Scenic City.
Aretha Frankenstein’s did not respond to requests for comment via phone calls and emails.
What sets Aretha Frankenstein’s apart?
Aretha’s founder Jeff Brakebill spent years collecting offbeat décor and renovating the house that would become a food destination in the region.
The spot gained a reputation for some of its quirkier elements, such as the squeezy bottle of apple butter at every table, the framed cereal boxes on the walls and its abundant Frankenstein tchotchkes, odes to the restaurant’s name, an apparent mashup of the fictional scientist and legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin.
Just one year after it opened in 2003, Aretha Frankenstein’s had attracted such a strong following that celebrity chef Rachael Ray came to get a taste in an episode of her Food Network show “$40 a Day.”
Not even a fire in 2006 that threatened to destroy the restaurant could ground its momentum.
In response to a flood of requests while they were closed, the restaurant began selling its pancake and waffle mixes in boxes at select stores. Now, Frankenstein Mills, the production company behind the popular mixes, sells its products in Food City, Publix and Walmart locations, as well as on Amazon and through its website.
For those interested in trying the pancakes and waffles at home before the new location opens, a 2-pound box of pancake mix costs $13.99 on Amazon and a 3-pack of both the pancake and waffle mixes are available through Frankenstein Mills for $32.95.
The restaurant was closed for 20 months during the pandemic and reopened in 2021. Staff told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that long wait times, another staple of Aretha’s, would be improved after reopening.
The menu at the original location features thick buttermilk pancakes “guaranteed to cure your ails from Ales,” omelets, quesadillas, an array of biscuits and sandwiches and, of course, Waffles of Insane Greatness! (the exclamation mark is included).
A recipe for the waffles provided to Food Network by Aretha Frankenstein’s includes cornstarch, which aids crispiness, and vanilla for added flavor.
What work has been done and when will Aretha Frankenstein’s open?
In October 2021, the city issued a permit to Ogle Brothers Development to remove the façade of the building, according to documents obtained via a public records request.
Some residents speculated online that the Chapman Highway site would be home to a second Scrambled Jake’s, partly because the restaurant’s Northshore Drive location was also a former Hardee’s.
A building permit application in November 2022 described the need for $390,500 of renovation for a new tenant: Aretha Frankenstein’s. Since that time, permits have been granted for electrical and design work, and a pending permit application requests $5,900 for a new LED sign. A faded Hardee’s sign still overlooks the building.
Ogle said finishing touches are being made to the interior and exterior of the building in preparation for an opening as early as this fall.
As a native of Gatlinburg, home to numerous pancake houses, Ogle thinks of himself as something of a expert on the subject. Aretha Frankenstein’s tops his list of the best. He thinks it will stand out as an independent breakfast spot in South Knoxville, where chains like Bojangles and Dunkin’ Donuts compete with local coffee shops like South Press and Honeybee Coffee.
“It’ll be a great spot to take the family, have a breakfast meeting, or hang out with friends,” Ogle said. “We believe you won’t find a better pancake, or waffle, anywhere and we look forward to Knoxville getting to experience the insane greatness of Aretha Frankenstein’s.”
Daniel Dassow is a reporting intern focusing on trending and business news. Phone 423-637-0878. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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