No 24-hour diner chain inspires quite the same popularity as Waffle House menu. Since its founding in Atlanta some 60 years ago, the restaurant has been elevated to cultural touchstone, now expansive across 25 U.S. states using more than 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 of 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 from a former line cook titled As the Waffle Burns as well as one by way of a pastor called – naturally – The Gospel According to Waffle House. The chain, which claims to 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 one another. Here now, a peek back at the legend, and for fans near and far, all that you should 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 twenty-four hours a day, with table service. Co-founder Forkner once explained how he and Rogers, who were 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 for that reason, the things they most wanted customers to order).
The first Waffle Property is now a museum. The business began franchising in 1960 and initially grew slowly, but expansion picked up inside the ’70s and ’80s. Its empire now spans across a complete half of the 50 continental states, and though it’s concentrated inside the South, Waffle Houses can be obtained 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 now the chairman – and fails to disclose annual sales figures, but in 2005 the company claimed which it uses two percent of all eggs produced in the U.S.
The Secret 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 hash brown orders dedicated to memory, but for all others, the menu translates each esoteric term: “Scattered” describes spreading the hash browns out over the grill so that they get crispy all-around – otherwise, they’re cooked within a steel ring – and is among the mostly commonly heard terms thrown around at WH; many also order them “well-done.” The other topping options 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 by using it and order them “all just how.”
Hash browns scattered, smothered, and covered. Similar to most any 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 have their own highly esoteric visual coding system. By marking plates with butter pats, mini tubs of grape jelly, and other condiments including mayo packets and pickles in various, highly specific arrangements, servers have the ability to communicate to cooks what food should be equipped for each plate. For example, to indicate your order of scrambled eggs with wheat toast, a tub of jelly is placed over a larger oval plate upside down at the six o’clock position. (Good luck memorizing this method until you actually work there; average folks will surely have to look on with awe.)
Famous Everyone Loves Waffle House. Though Waffle Property is prized as being a refuge for the common people, a lot of celebrities have likewise pledged their allegiance. Prominently located just off busy interstates, Waffle menu 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 continues to be filmed in a Waffle House car park, and nineties sensation/current butt of endless jokes Hootie and also 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.