No 24-hour diner chain inspires quite the same cult following as Wafflehouse menu. Since its founding in Atlanta some 60 years ago, the restaurant has been elevated to cultural touchstone, now sprawling across 25 U.S. states with over 2,000 locations. Slinging humble breakfast fare around the clock, Waffle House inspires deep and unyielding loyalty in diners like few restaurant chains (except maybe Whataburger) can. Is it 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 a little bit of that inexplicable Southern diner magic – refer to it as the Waffle House je ne sais quoi.
The chain has inspired numerous books, including a first-person narrative from the former line cook titled As the Waffle Burns in addition to one with a pastor called – naturally – The Gospel In accordance with Waffle House. The chain, which claims to have sold its billionth waffle sometime in 2015, recently saw both of its founders, Tom Forkner and Joe Rogers Sr., die in just two months of one another. Here now, a look back at the legend, and for fans near and far, all that you should know about Waffle House.
The Beginning – The very first Waffle House made its debut in 1955 inside the Atlanta suburb of Avondale Estates. The vision: combine fast food, available 24 hours a day, with table service. Co-founder Forkner once explained how he and Rogers, who had been neighbors, started the chain: “He said, ‘You develop a restaurant and I’ll demonstrate how to run it.’” They named it Waffle House because waffles were probably the most profitable menu item (and thus, the things they most wanted customers to order).
The initial Waffle House is now a museum. The organization began franchising in 1960 and initially grew slowly, but expansion acquired inside the ’70s and ’80s. Its empire now spans across a full half of the 50 continental states, despite the fact that it’s concentrated within the South, Waffle Houses can be found as far north as Ohio and as far west as Arizona. Waffle House remains a privately owned company today – Rogers’s son, Joe Rogers Jr., is currently the chairman – and will not disclose annual sales figures, nevertheless in 2005 the organization claimed that it uses two percent of all the eggs created in the U.S.
The Trick Waffle House Language. Eating at Waffle House the very first time requires becoming versed in a new vernacular – just what the hell does “scattered, smothered, and covered” mean? True Waffle House devotees have their own hash brown orders committed to memory, however for everybody else, the menu translates each esoteric term: “Scattered” refers to spreading the hash browns out throughout the grill so they get crispy all around – otherwise, they’re cooked in a steel ring – and is one of the mostly commonly heard terms thrown around at WH; many also order them “well-done.” The other topping choices are smothered (sautéed onions), covered (melted American cheese), chunked (pieces of ham), diced (tomatoes), peppered (jalapeños), capped (grilled mushrooms), topped (chili), or country (smothered in sausage gravy). Diners could also just say to hell along with it and order them “all the way.”
Hash browns scattered, smothered, and covered. Like the majority of any other diner, orders at Waffle House are subject to a lot of customization, through the various egg preparations (over easy, scrambled, et al) to people 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, as well as other condiments like mayo packets and pickles in various, highly specific arrangements, servers are able to communicate to cooks what food should be ready for each plate. As an example, to indicate your order of scrambled eggs with wheat toast, a tub of jelly is put on a larger oval plate upside down in the six o’clock position. (Best of luck memorizing this method except if you actually work there; average folks will just have to look up with awe.)
Famous Everyone Loves Waffle House. Though Waffle Property is prized being a refuge for the common people, a lot of celebrities have also pledged their allegiance. Prominently located just off busy interstates, Waffle House has played host to a lot of traveling musicians and earned itself plenty of references: Inside the track “Welcome to Atlanta,” Jermaine Dupri raps, “After jpgpiy party it’s the Waffle House/If you ever been here do you know what I’m talkin’ about.” One or more rap music video continues to be filmed in a Waffle House parking lot, and nineties sensation/current butt of endless jokes Hootie as well as the Blowfish use a cover album titled “Scattered, Smothered, and Covered.” Oddly enough, WH also has its own record label, breakfast-themed cuts (think “Make Mine With Cheese” and “There’s Raisins inside my Toast”) from which is often heard playing on the jukeboxes that occupy each location.