No 24-hour diner chain inspires quite the same cult following as Waffle House. 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 24 hours a day, 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 inevitably call you “honey”? Likely some combination of all the above, plus a little bit of 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 coming from a former line cook titled Because the Waffle Burns along with one by a pastor called – naturally – The Gospel According to Waffle House. The chain, which states have sold its billionth waffle sometime in 2015, recently saw both its founders, Tom Forkner and Joe Rogers Sr., die within just two months of a single another. Here now, a glance back in the legend, and for fans near and far, everything you need to know about Waffle House.
Your First Step – The first Waffle House made its debut in 1955 within 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 had been neighbors, started the chain: “He said, ‘You build a restaurant and I’ll explain to you the best way to run it.’” They named it Waffle House because waffles were by far the most profitable menu item (and therefore, what they most wanted customers to order).
The initial Waffle Property is now a museum. The business began franchising in 1960 and initially grew slowly, but expansion acquired in the ’70s and ’80s. Its empire now spans across a complete one half of the 50 continental states, and though it’s concentrated in the South, Waffle Houses are available as far north as Ohio and as far west as Arizona. Waffle House remains a privately held company today – Rogers’s son, Joe Rogers Jr., has become the chairman – and fails to disclose annual sales figures, nevertheless in 2005 the company claimed that it uses two percent of all eggs created in the U.S.
The Key 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 get their hash brown orders dedicated to memory, however for everybody else, the menu translates each esoteric term: “Scattered” describes spreading the hash browns out over the grill therefore they get crispy throughout – otherwise, they’re cooked within a steel ring – and is probably the mostly commonly heard terms thrown around at WH; many also order them “well-done.” Another topping alternatives 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 may also just say to hell with it and order them “all the way.”
Hash browns scattered, smothered, and covered. Similar to most every other diner, orders at Waffle House are subjected to plenty of customization, from the various egg preparations (over easy, scrambled, et al) to the people signature hash browns. To make certain order accuracy and kitchen efficiency, Waffle House staff get their own highly esoteric visual coding system. By marking plates with butter pats, mini tubs of grape jelly, along with other condiments including mayo packets and pickles in different, highly specific arrangements, servers can communicate to cooks what food should be ready for each plate. For instance, to indicate a purchase of scrambled eggs with wheat toast, a tub of jelly is placed on a larger oval plate upside down on the six o’clock position. (Best of luck memorizing this method except if you actually work there; everyone else will surely need to look up with awe.)
Famous Everyone Loves Waffle House. Though Waffle Property is prized as a refuge for that common people, plenty of celebrities have likewise pledged their allegiance. Prominently located just off busy interstates, Waffle House near me has played host to a lot of traveling musicians and earned itself a lot of references: Inside the track “Welcome to Atlanta,” Jermaine Dupri raps, “After jpgpiy party it’s the Waffle House/Should you ever been here do you know what I’m talkin’ about.” One or more rap music video has been filmed in a Waffle House parking area, and nineties sensation/current butt of endless jokes Hootie and also the Blowfish have 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 in My Toast”) from which may be heard playing on the jukeboxes that occupy each location.