As I put these words to digital paper I am concluding my meal for the day. A sizable portion of fried chicken and waffle, despite my previously taking down ⅔ of the dish beforehand, is currently being consumed in what will more than likely be a gastrointestinal error. Sitting high on the mountain in a cabin in Tennessee, the rain outside has rendered it quiet and slightly dark. I figure this is when my story should be told. What better time to tell you a tale of something that is in and of itself far from quiet yet slightly dark?
I was able to wrangle the Sneer crew into a breakfast excursion this morning. I will note first thing that this was no regular breakfast eatery. This was no solemn, plainly decorated pancake house that limps along on the word of mouth of the local elderly population. “The pancakes are soft and not painful on my gums” they may say, but this isn’t quite enough to rope someone of my sort of taste in. Listen here, I can make pancakes. Sneer-friend Jamie has already demonstrated superior waffle-making prowess. I’ve even been known to whip up some fairly decent sausage from time to time. If that is all your restaurant has to offer me, I do not feel I have a single ounce of goddamn interest in showing up to consume your mid-level goods. What I do NOT have is over 100 animatronic chickens. I also do not have a staff that apparently HAS TO sing along with these chickens. So you can only imagine my excitement when Yelp presented me with an establishment that promised both things.
Thus my decision was made. Menu unchecked. Health rating unglanced. Brain unbalanced.
A line awaited us upon arrival. This was surely a sign that a quality establishment was awaiting us, as a shit restaurant would certainly never have a long line. In the 3rd phone call I have made this week (perhaps a record) I inquired as to the wait time. Twenty to thirty minutes was the amount of time I was promised it would take before we could be seated. I’m never one to wait for too awful long, but I felt wasting 20-30 minutes of my life for the promise of Good Times was a fair exchange. I’ve surely withered away the majority of my 40 years on worse. After all agreeing that the wait was bearable, we stepped out of the car.
Reward was immediate.
I had a lot of questions going into this excursion, and our “greeter” only managed to conjure up more. Why is a full adult-ass chicken popping out of this egg? Why is there a loosey on the ground by its feet? Was this the work of an uncaring patron or the chicken itself having a few drags while on break? Some questions were put to bed immediately as I realized what I thought was a condom was merely a very wet receipt paper or paper of some other receipt-like sort. It was also at this point that I started seeing all of the younger patrons exiting the restaurant with eggs in hand! After a brief debate as to the realness of these eggs, we concluded they were gimmick eggs that were given out as prizes to kids that were able to dine in without ruining things for everyone else by incessantly shrieking or being little shits in general. Needless to say, jealousy was now joining my feelings of confusion and excitement-induced mania. I did a tap-dance/sliding around hybrid outside, I clapped my hands like a high-school coach trying to rile the team up for a 2nd half comeback, I pep-talked people who either didn’t need pep-talking or would rather die than receive one. Basically, I was ready.
Then we got the text. Our table was ready, but motherfucker I was more ready than that table or any eating surface could ever hope to be.
We wandered in and immediately I was both overwhelmed and underwhelmed. Amandoll and I apparently had the same expectations for the inside. We both assumed it would look like that of an elderly person who only hoarded animatronic chickens no matter the size, look, or state of disrepair, somewhat as how the Vent Haven Museum presents its treasures. While the quantities promised were present (100+), they were all extremely organized and lined up in a manner in which it didn’t hurt the head to take them all in at once, unlike the Vent Haven Museum. I worked through my disappointment of not having to step over robotic-chicken parts and my party settled down at our table for what we were sure was a majestic breakfast spread.
I was pleased with the naming of the birds, I will say. Each particular bird had a celebrity-inspired name that caused everything from mild eye-rolling to major eye-rolling. Dolly PartHEN, Elvis PresLAY, Conway Tweety (a real lay up on that one) were all present, not quite gimmicked up to look like their counterpart but still presenting a vastly different look from their robotic chicken siblings. I ordered my food. I was fighting off tears.
You will notice that early on I mentioned that all employees HAVE TO sing along with the animatronics. I had assumed this to be a hard and fast rule that all would follow. As it was, several of us were there with evil motives. Dollisa in particular had mentioned wanting to catch a good look at the eyes of the employees mid-song, to see if the light of life had long since burned out.
This would lead to perhaps the only real disappointment of the entire ordeal. It turns out the staff does NOT sing along. I know this fact because I bore witness to the spectacle of musical chicken numbers SEVERAL times while there. The lights dimmed, the chickens began to rouse as if snapping out of a deep slumber, and the unmistakable strains of “Sweet Caroline” played at a moderate volume level throughout the restaurant. The chickens, rather than singing in the traditional sense, bocked and clucked their way expertly through the tune. I’m not going to lie, my senses were completely overloaded at this point and I have no shame in admitting I was on the verge of tears. There was an chaotic energy at play in that restaurant that made me feel as though I needed to be on my toes at all times. I dunno, I had two big Tequila Sunrises before we left so I’m not ruling that out as a factor.
It wasn’t long after the first song that the lights dimmed again and a voice urgently alarmed that the kitchen was “out of food!” This resulted in a frantic bobbing of chickens, whizzing and whirring of “machines” that were supposedly doing everything from cooking bacon to transporting eggs and to gathering milk. It was totally out of nowhere and further frazzled me just when I thought I had reached the height of frazzlement. The servers continued along through all of this, and I silently wondered how long it took them to get used to working in this crazed environment. They didn’t even so much look up at a single chicken during the routines. Was this out of boredom with the whole thing, or an unspoken respect? Maybe it was a hard and fast rule that servers did NOT make eye contact with the performers? I got nothing.
Food was served in a rather quick fashion. Our server was a very polite woman who hid the obvious mental distress this setting would put you under very well. It’s typically a thing that restaurants that have a heavy gimmick typically do not excel in the food department. I am happy to report that the cuisine at Fizzle’s was top notch breakfast fare. I ordered the chicken and waffles, and was presented with a generous waffle and a large share of chicken tenders placed on top. I added a little butter, a little syrup, and hot damn I had a real breakfast treat. Everyone else at the table reported favorable things with their dishes as well. Dollissa ordered a burger, which I thought was a somewhat controversial move at what is mostly a breakfast establishment. But she seemed pleased with it and I realize I need to broaden my horizons in my old age. TO EACH THEIR OWN is my final verdict on that matter.
You will recall, unless time has ravaged your memory, I mentioned younger customers walking out with toy eggs. Emboldened by drink and driven half-mad by animatronic chicken shenanigans, I chose to make a wild request. As I kindly beckoned for our waitress to come over, I made my move. “I can’t help but notice some of the younger ones walking out with eggs. I was–” was all I needed to get out before she realized the play I was making. She did not look at me with shame, nor annoyance. Instead, with a smile, she asked if I would like an egg of my own to take with me. I informed her that I would like nothing more than a toy egg to call my very own. She brought me two! I’m not sure why, but I do not look a gift egg in the shell. Feeling a strange sense of power while holding the egg, I was overcome with the feeling that everyone else at the table was deserving of an egg as well. “Eggs for all of my friends” I decreed and was somewhat shocked that this request was also filled.
Eggs in hand, we exited the table and slowly made our way outside. I took it slow, making sure to take in the scenery and any chickens I had missed. I felt as though while some questions were answered during this visit, many more had sprung up. Why an animatronic chicken restaurant? Why Sweet Caroline???
One question in particular leads me down a dark path in my head. We commented amongst ourselves how strange it was for a chicken-themed restaurant to have so few chicken dishes. It’s true, chicken and waffles was the only breakfast option and chicken strips the only lunch choice for those who choose to dine on fowl. Why so limited? Is this at the behest of the person who owns the restaurant, or is it to appease someone else? Maybe that someone else is several individuals. Maybe those individuals are animatronic and cluck along to hot hits from the 70’s and 80’s.
You see, I spoke of a somewhat uneasy feeling while dining, and I think it comes down to this. The chickens seem to have a life of their own. Eyes would occasionally dart, heads would turn toward one another as if a silent conversation was taking place, and heads would bob about almost in a disturbing manner. You felt watched. You felt judged. As I feasted on not only the products of their body but on their very flesh as well, I had never been made to feel as guilty and slightly concerned for my safety as I was dining under the gaze of 200 watchful chicken eyes.
I do not feel the humans run that show, is all I’m saying. I don’t have any further proof of this, but I just know. If you don’t believe me, if you think I’m just spinning a yarn for the sake of it… then I challenge you. I CHALLENGE you to head down to Frizzle’s and see what it’s all about. You’ll delight in the food and you’ll be entertained by the sheer sights and sounds, but what I want to know about is the feeling deep in the pit of your stomach that forms in the hours after you depart. Tell me how you feel after having spent those quiet hours at home processing everything you saw. Replaying small details over and over and realizing that you are seeing them in a completely different and more sinister light. Maybe you’ll sleep, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll toss and turn all night swearing up and down that those eyes just weren’t right, that they had an almost.. human quality to them. Perhaps at Frizzle’s employees clock in, but they don’t clock out. The possibilities are as endless as they are frightening.
But for real, I’d eat there again.
I must go now. The egg on my nightstand is moving.