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 expansive across Twenty five 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. Is it the cheap prices? The no-frills atmosphere? Those illustrious hash browns that by some means taste better when you’re intoxicated? The waitresses that inevitably 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 As the Waffle Burns as well as one with a pastor called – naturally – The Gospel Based on Waffle House menu 2018. The chain, which states 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 merely one another. Here now, a look back on the legend, and then for fans near and far, all that you should know about Waffle House.
The Beginning – The initial Waffle House made its debut in 1955 in 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 have been neighbors, started the chain: “He said, ‘You build a restaurant and I’ll demonstrate how you can run it.’” They named it Waffle House because waffles were probably the most profitable menu item (and for that reason, the things they most wanted customers to order).
The first Waffle House is now a museum. The company began franchising in 1960 and at first grew slowly, but expansion acquired in the ’70s and ’80s. Its empire now spans across an entire one half of the 50 continental states, even though it’s concentrated within 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., is currently the chairman – and does not disclose annual sales figures, but in 2005 the company claimed which it uses two percent of all eggs manufactured in the U.S.
The Trick Waffle House Language. Eating at Waffle House the very first time requires becoming versed in a new vernacular – what the hell does “scattered, smothered, and covered” mean? True Waffle House devotees get their hash brown orders focused on memory, but also for everyone else, the menu translates each esoteric term: “Scattered” describes spreading the hash browns out throughout the grill so that they get crispy throughout – 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.” One other 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 can also just say to hell along with it and order them “all just how.”
Hash browns scattered, smothered, and covered. Like most every other diner, orders at Waffle House are susceptible to plenty of customization, through the various egg preparations (over easy, scrambled, et al) to the people signature hash browns. To make sure 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, and other condiments like mayo packets and pickles in different, highly specific arrangements, servers have the ability to communicate to cooks what food should be prepared for each plate. For instance, to indicate your order of scrambled eggs with yousvj toast, a tub of jelly is placed on a larger oval plate upside-down at the six o’clock position. (Best of luck memorizing this system except if you actually work there; the rest of us will simply need to look on with awe.)
Famous People Love Waffle House. Though Waffle Home is prized being a refuge for that common people, lots of celebrities also have pledged their allegiance. Prominently located just off busy interstates, Waffle House 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 the party it’s the Waffle House/If you ever been here do you know what I’m talkin’ about.” At least one rap music video has become filmed in a Waffle House car park, 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 possesses its own record label, breakfast-themed cuts (think “Make Mine With Cheese” and “There’s Raisins inside my Toast”) from which can be heard playing on the jukeboxes that occupy each location.