No 24-hour diner chain inspires quite the same popularity as Waffle House. Since its founding in Atlanta some 60 years back, the restaurant has been elevated to cultural touchstone, now expansive across 25 U.S. states using more than 2,000 locations. Slinging modest breakfast fare night and day, Waffle House inspires deep and unyielding devotion in diners like few restaurant chains (except maybe Whataburger) can. Could it be the cheap prices? The no-frills atmosphere? Those illustrious hash browns that somehow taste better when you’re intoxicated? The waitresses that undoubtedly call you “honey”? Likely some combination of all of the above, plus some that inexplicable Southern diner magic – call it the Waffle House je ne sais quoi.
The chain has inspired numerous books, such as a first-person narrative from a former line cook titled Because the Waffle Burns in addition to one by way of a pastor called – naturally – The Gospel Based on Waffle House menu. The chain, which states to have sold its billionth waffle sometime in 2015, recently saw each of its founders, Tom Forkner and Joe Rogers Sr., die within just sixty days of a single another. Here now, a look back at the legend, as well as for fans near and far, all you need to know about Waffle House.
The Beginning – The initial Waffle House made its debut in 1955 inside the Atlanta suburb of Avondale Estates. The vision: combine fast food, available round the clock, with table service. Co-founder Forkner once explained how he and Rogers, who were neighbors, started the chain: “He said, ‘You create a restaurant and I’ll demonstrate how you can run it.’” They named it Waffle House because waffles were the most profitable menu item (and therefore, whatever they most wanted customers to acquire).
The original Waffle Home is now a museum. The company began franchising in 1960 and at first grew slowly, but expansion found inside the ’70s and ’80s. Its empire now spans across a full 50 % of the 50 continental states, and though it’s concentrated inside the South, Waffle Houses are available as far north as Ohio so when far west as Arizona. Waffle House remains a privately owned company today – Rogers’s son, Joe Rogers Jr., has become the chairman – and fails to disclose annual sales figures, nevertheless in 2005 the business claimed it uses two percent of all the eggs manufactured in the U.S.
The Key Waffle House Language. Eating at Waffle House the first time requires becoming versed in a new vernacular – exactly what the hell does “scattered, smothered, and covered” mean? True Waffle House devotees have their own hash brown orders committed to memory, but also for all others, the menu translates each esoteric term: “Scattered” describes spreading the hash browns out over the grill therefore they get crispy all-around – otherwise, they’re cooked inside a steel ring – and is among the mostly commonly heard terms thrown around at WH; many also order them “well-done.” Another topping options are smothered (sautéed onions), covered (melted American cheese), chunked (bits of ham), diced (tomatoes), peppered (jalapeños), capped (grilled mushrooms), topped (chili), or country (smothered in sausage gravy). Diners can also just say to hell with it and order them “all just how.”
Hash browns scattered, smothered, and covered. Like the majority of any other diner, orders at Waffle House are subject to plenty of customization, from your various egg preparations (over easy, scrambled, et al) to those signature hash browns. To ensure order accuracy and kitchen efficiency, Waffle House staff have their own own highly esoteric visual coding system. By marking plates with butter pats, mini tubs of grape jelly, along with other condiments like mayo packets and pickles in a variety of, highly specific arrangements, servers have the ability to communicate to cooks what food should be prepared for each plate. For example, to indicate your order of scrambled eggs with yousvj toast, a tub of jelly is positioned on the larger oval plate upside-down in the six o’clock position. (All the best memorizing this technique unless you actually work there; the rest of us will surely need to look up with awe.)
Famous Everyone Loves Waffle House. Though Waffle Property is prized as being a refuge for that common people, lots of celebrities have also pledged their allegiance. Prominently located just off busy interstates, Waffle House has played host to numerous traveling musicians and earned itself lots of references: Within the track “Welcome to Atlanta,” Jermaine Dupri raps, “After the party it’s the Waffle House/Should you ever been here do you know what I’m talkin’ about.” A minumum of one rap music video has been filmed in a Waffle House parking area, and nineties sensation/current butt of endless jokes Hootie and the Blowfish use a cover album titled “Scattered, Smothered, and Covered.” Oddly enough, WH also features its own record label, breakfast-themed cuts (think “Make Mine With Cheese” and “There’s Raisins in My Toast”) from which can be heard playing on the jukeboxes that occupy each location.