About two years ago, I came across the Waffle House restaurant locator app. I burst out laughing, showed it to Hoss, then spluttered "What we need is an app that will locate a corner without a Waffle House!"
And that wasn't much of an exaggeration. Every town in the south has at least one. On occasion, we run into two of them literally across the intersection from each other. And no matter the time of day, both will seemingly be half full.
Customers in suits stop by in the morning for a go cup of coffee and a take-out breakfast. In the booths and on counter chairs sit construction workers, moms and small kids, cowboys, grandmas with shopping bags, delivery drivers, and virtually anyone else in need of a fresh, hot breakfast.
The kitchen is open; the food is prepared in plain sight. When it's standing room only, as it is every weekend morning, the cooks perform a perfectly synchronized ballet. As each order is called out by a waitress, one cook removes the requested breakfast meat from the fridge and puts it to sizzle on the grill; another next to him/her cracks eggs and starts their preparation; yet another handles the hashbrowns and grilled biscuits; while another takes care of waffles and toast. It runs like a perfectly tuned machine and is entertaining as hell to watch.
The hashbrowns are famously offered scattered, smothered, covered, and at least six other ways with equally cryptic titles that correlate to hashbrowns with onions, cheese, chili, diced ham, jalapenos, tomatoes, mushrooms, and gravy. And ordering them "All the Way" results in a plate of breakfasty flavor heaven, a southern version of our fretta.
My favorite is Cheesy Eggs, a plate of eggs scrambled with cheddar cheese, 3 strips of bacon cured with an abundance of old-fashioned piggy flavor, hashbrowns scattered-smothered-covered, and a grilled biscuit. Goooooood stuff.
Another reason Waffle House is so popular, I think, is the wait staff. They often call their customers by name and know exactly what they'll want to eat. They're friendly - at least half of them will call out "Hello!" when a customer walks in the door - they're quick to refill your coffee, and they're hard-working and happy. We recently met two young ladies at a Waffle House in the Dayton area, Meghan and Jade, and they're continuing the tradition of friendly, helpful, smiling service:
Sorry it took so long to get this posted, girls - I just had too much to get done and couldn't get to it. Hope you hung in there with me!
Quite a few of the staff was wearing a T-shirt we'd never seen before. Thanks to Meghan for modeling it for us all:
| Click to see a larger version|
Waffle House is so deeply ingrained in Southern culture that it regularly appears in music, television, print, and movies ... and not always in a positive light - something they actually embrace (if you haven't clicked on the above pic to read the T-shirt, do so now). In Tin Cup
, Waffle House was called "the low-rent roadside cafe featuring waffles". Not very flattering.
Therefore, you're probably going to be quite surprised to discover that Waffle House is considered by FEMA to be one of the top four corporations for disaster response. In anticipation of a natural disaster, Waffle House moves generators, fuel, food, and ice ahead of the event, ensuring the restaurant can remain open and continue to serve fresh, hot food and coffee. They are so successful at this, in fact, that FEMA uses their example as a measure of responsiveness they refer to as the Waffle House Index.
Although we still frequent Cracker Barrel now and then, Waffle House will always hold a special appeal for us.
As Roy said in the movie
, "I'm a Waffle House guy. Got to stay in touch with that."