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Love for the Waffle House

We just got a brand-new Waffle House in our neighborhood, so my wife and I had to try it out. I had never been to a new one before, just a few random visits to dingy, greasy Waffle Houses over the years, for a bit of variety or because it was late and nothing else was open. It never did much for me in the past, and I would never have driven out of my way or gotten excited to visit one.

Well, we've gone twice for mid-week breakfasts and once for a Friday evening dinner, and we love this place. It's bright and clean and shiny (and not due to grease), the service is friendly and excellent, and the food is delicious and ridiculously cheap.

My wife absolutely loves the hash browns and argues they are the best she's ever had. I'm not inclined to disagree. Usually I don't care for hash browns -- they're often tasteless, greasy, and somehow dry at the same time, and can only be salvaged by copious amounts of ketchup. But these have a perfect, lightly-crispy, golden-brown exterior and an almost creamy interior. She likes hers plain. Once I made the mistake of ordering mine smothered, covered, etc. (grilled onions, melted cheese, chili, AND jalapenos). That ended up making a mess and overpowering the hash browns (and my poor stomach). I'll never do that again.

The waffles are delicious -- better than any belgian waffles I've ever had at frou-frou brunch places and even the super-snotty Norma's in New York City, where tuxedoed waiters shower tourists with contempt. These are flatter waffles, not the belgian style, but they share the hash browns' perfect crispy exterior and soft interior. They're sweet, but not like a dessert. I like the peach waffles, with real chunks of peach baked in and a peach syrup on top, which I realize makes it more desserty.

I've also discovered the joy of Waffle House cheeseburgers. There is a "value menu" section on the back of the two-sided laminated menu, including an "old-fashioned" single cheeseburger for $1 and a double cheeseburger for $2. These are smaller than their regular cheeseburgers, but the $2 double cheeseburger is a tremendous value. They butter and grill the bun for all of them, and even the small, "old-fashioned" burgers come with freshly-grilled onions. I tried the larger, more expensive burger once, which came with lettuce and tomato, but the $2 double had a perfect meat-to-cheese-to-bun ratio, the grilled onions were a really nice touch, and you already have all the condiments you could possibly need on the table. The burgers are juicy, but the edges get crispy like a nice diner burger -- definitely a step up from most fast food places.

Waffle House often gets maligned as a grease pit, or a place you go late at night when you're drunk and nothing else is open, or a sad rest stop along lonesome highways. I never sought them out, but I've loving this one, and I implore everyone give theirs another chance with fresh eyes and an empty stomach. I'll take their food over Perkins (my least-favorite sit-down breakfast place), Denny's, IHOP (my previous favorite breakfast place), and even the once-beloved Cracker Barrel. Heck, I'll take it over a lot of local greasy spoon diners that are overpriced, mediocre, and not nearly as friendly. The staff at our Waffle House HUSTLES, and they're so incredibly nice, and I make sure to tip them like a boss. (I imagine it's a somewhat seedier scene late at night, but we never stay out like we did in our 20s.)

Plus, it has a jukebox, although I haven't attempted to force my excellent musical taste on anyone at the Waffle House yet.

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  1. I love to stop at Waffle House when travelling. Unless there is a long line to be seated, you can get in and out fast.

    Always a double order of hashbrowns, scattered and smothered, and I ask them to make them well-done. I eat them with Heinz 57 sauce.

    If you like the cheeseburger, you may enjoy the patty melt, too.

    Late at night, it is definitely a different crowd, but I have never felt like it was seedy, mostly young people who had been out on the town. The restaurants are very well lit and you will frequently see the local police or sheriff drop in to eat or pick up a cup of coffee.

    1. I've never gone wrong with a waffle and a double order of hashbrowns, scattered smothered covered & diced (tomatoes added). I made the mistake of adding gravy to my hashbrowns last time -- urgghh, horrible stuff, surprisingly.

      1. we really love Waffle House, and don't have any nearby. We are headed to Charlotte, NC for a long weekend in April, can't wait to get my fix. :)

        1. There's something comforting about the consistency at Waffle House.

          I like to sit at the counter and watch the cooks. They have a secret code that shows the cooks what to place on each plate:

          http://www.flickr.com/photos/nickgray...

          The FEMA Waffle House index is interesting:

          http://blog.fema.gov/2011/07/news-of-...

          Our local Waffle Houses are good corporate citizens. They support our schools and libraries.

          1. Nothing beats Waffle House after a cold, late season Ohio State football game. It's a tradition for me. Hot cuppa coffee, veggie and ham omelet or waffles. Mmm.. tastes like home to me!

            1. So much love for the Waffle House here! My husband and I had our first date at a Waffle House!
              Grits and raisin toast, bacon egg & cheese sandwich with mayonnaise, burgers, all good.
              They also make my very favorite cup of coffee.
              When travelling in the northern US, I always become uneasy at the lack of Waffle Houses...

              1 Reply
              1. re: DragonDrumsticks

                Dh and I are talking about retiring south-wards. I plan to become a regular at a local Waffle House. :)

              2. Every time I pass the place now my heart jumps out and points menacingly at the building like the evil Family Guy closet monkey, but back in college? Hell yeah. Ours was all-you-can-eat about half the day, and I ate a lot of potatoes and burgers.

                1. Waffle House burgers are one of the few perfect chain creations.

                  http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2...

                  1. I used to love visiting Waffle House every time I drove to the South (I grew up in MA, but my grandma lived in NC). I think I liked the idea of Waffle House more than I loved the actual food, but I'm glad to hear it's stayed consistent over the years (or maybe even improved, by the sound of it!)

                    A bit off topic, but I also just learned about the Waffle House Index: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waffle_H... which is quite interesting! It's an informal metric to determine the impact of a hurricane, tornado or other storm.

                    1. I don't live anywhere near a WaHo, so that seldom occasion I'm in a part of the US with one, I'll order a lot of stuff. I should mention that before going in, I do vacillate somewhat, as the waiters invariably act as if they're on a playground.

                      1. A few years ago on our way home from the inlaws there was a Waffle House right out front of our hotel. We needed breakfast, it was close and Mrs. Sippi hadn't been to one in ages. She loved them but my few visits were at best mediocre.

                        Well this one wasn't anything you'd call new or old. It was just there.
                        Anyway, I forget at the moment what I had but thoroughly enjoyed it.

                        DT

                        1. I've always been a Waffle House fan. I love hash browns and it is hard to find them prepared well - which WH does.

                          I'm in the South so have ample access to this chain. The last 6 years or so I've been finding many locations on a downward slide. The three locations closest to my home I won't even go to any more. Just bad on every level.

                          It is my understanding that some locations are corporately owned and others are franchised. My local franchise has issues. I've had good luck at WH locations along I -75. Less luck at locations along I-95.

                          I miss having a go-to WH!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: meatn3

                            You're right. I travel along I-75 quite often.. many a Waffle Houses to be found.

                          2. "Plus, it has a jukebox, although I haven't attempted to force my excellent musical taste on anyone at the Waffle House yet."

                            With your name, I would expect you to be some kind of a blues musician, playing great tunes...

                            1. I'm a fan of the Texas cheesesteak with a side of hash browns scattered, smothered, covered, and peppered. Unfortunately there are no Waffle Houses in Minnesota, so I haven't been in nearly four years.

                              1. I'll simply say this....I am a fan of the Waffle House when traveling and I can echo your sentiments word for word....when the store is on the newer side or has been renovated, however, when the store is old and in dire need of attention...then my experience is it will be very poor.

                                I also like the Huddle House.

                                1. Locations vary. Some are the quintessential long-haul diner experience, others are just plain bad. When it's good, it's very good. When it's bad, well, the less said, the better.

                                  However, it's pretty hard to beat a waffle with bacon, and hash browns scattered, smothered, and covered and the endless coffee. Sometimes, though, I just have to go for a Texas cheesesteak minus the little mayo packet on the side.

                                  The jukebox is a gem. How many places even have a jukebox, let alone one stocked with multiple odes to itself? But for the ultimate Waffle House song, listen to "The Waffle House Fire" by the Rev. Billy C. Wirtz.
                                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxaNUp...

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: rockycat

                                    Thanks for the Rev. Billy C. Wirtz link. I am a huge fan!

                                  2. we stopped at the Waffle House in Smyrna DE Saturday on our way to Bridgeville to take in the annual Punkin Chunkin competition. Our waitress Katy was everything you expect a WH waitress to be, friendly, efficient and sassy. We had a couple WH virgins with us, who totally enjoyed the experience!
                                    I love that they cook bacon "right"... whatever your version of right is! I had "well" DH had "light" and our friends had medium. Everyone was very happy. :)