The screen behind Feather Locklear turned blue and giant animated white snowflakes began to fall.
“Oh,” I thought on an early November morning at Frizzle Chicken Farmhouse in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. “They’re about to sing a Christmas carol.”
Friends, I was wrong.
Instead, the tinkling piano notes that send chills up the spines of children and down the spines of their parents began and suddenly our pleasant pancake breakfast surrounded by roosting animatronic chickens was about to get weird.
“Elsa!” my 4-year-old daughter shrieked as she does every time her little Disney addicted ears hear anything from the “Frozen” soundtrack.
That’s right. We were about to “Let it Go” – chicken style.
Unlike their cover of “Sweet Caroline,” the robot chickens didn’t sing the lyrics to Disney’s most popular ear worm since “Whistle While You Work.” Oh no.
Cluck Norris squawked it.
My dignity would like me to report to you that I sat there begrudgingly, eye-twitching, enduring this live action descent into the cartoon colored reality in which our kids grow up, a world in which a trio of first graders in pajamas can fight ninjas at night, puppies in high-tech service vehicles save the world or chickens credibly cover massive show tunes.
I would like to tell you that I was a noble father, enduring this madness at the risk of his own mental health to give his children a few moments of joy.
I would like to tell you that. But the truth is, I enjoyed the moment.
When the chickens stopped singing, my 4-year-old looked me in the eye; her mouth lined in the chocolate syrup and whipped cream of her bear pancakes.
“That was the silliest thing,” she said.
And then we both laughed and she went back to eating her pancakes while dancing in her chair to the music replaying in her head and my heart nearly burst with joy.
For the uninitiated, Frizzles Chicken Farmhouse traffics in one of the most competitive markets in Pigeon Forge: Pancakes. The competition for the tourist breakfast traffic is fierce, with every flap jack slinger in the county fighting for an edge. At Frizzle Chicken Farmhouse, that edge is more than 100 singing, animatronic chickens.
It’s a bit Disney’s Tiki Room. It’s a bit Chuck E. Cheese. It’s a bit like the guy who did the classic children’s show H.R. Pufnstuf got out of the entertainment business, took a whole lot of acid, got really into Hee-Haw and opened a breakfast restaurant.
In other words, it’s great.
I often find myself at odds with the cornier aspects of East Tennessee culture. The stuff that gets us looked down upon by people who don’t eat at restaurants with checkered tablecloths or say the word y’all with confidence.
Sometimes I cringe at how much Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge lean into the stereotypes, capitalize on the weird ‘50s and ’60’s ideal of mountain folks.
And then other times I sit in a restaurant next to the comedy barn with a bunch of strangers joining Hen Solo and Princess Laya squawking the “Bah, bah, baaaaa” part of a Neil Diamond classic.
Frizzle Chicken Farmhouse serves breakfast and lunch only and closes for the day at 1 p.m. Ain’t nobody getting pancakes from singing chickens for dinner, I guess.
When we went, there was a bit of a wait and the restaurant stayed nearly full until well after noon and closing time approached. The food was good. The kids liked their pancakes. My teenage daughter recommends the cinnamon roll pancakes which may have briefly given her diabetes but sure looked good.
I had the country fried steak biscuit which was tasty and I would have again. The wife enjoyed her French toast.
But ultimately, here’s the thing:
How many times have you eaten breakfast in your life? How many of them do you actually remember?
I can promise you Frizzle Chicken Farmhouse gave my family a breakfast experience they’re going to remember for a long time.