19 November 2009

If People Are Candy, Waffle House Is A Sugar Shack

As you know, I've been out of town for the past several days. You know how much I love a good road trip. Below are a few of the pictures I took literally along the way.

It's a beautiful time of year in the South. And I rolled along taking pictures like the one above with beautiful blue skies.

And this one, where the clouds seemed to be clearing.
I must admit, I was in a bit of a hurry, so I often didn't stop the car and just relied on the scenery from the drivers' seat. It was very pleasant seeing the Deep South as I motored west.

But I noticed a bit of symmetry along the highways and byways of Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia.

A bit of a theme, you might call it.

(Here's a little Waffle House Trivia [WHT]: Waffle House restaurants serve more than 3.2 million pounds of grits each year; enough to fill 86 semi-trucks.)

I never had to strain my eyes.
Although sometimes, it did seem to go by in a bit of a flash!
Look, it's almost gone! No worries because here comes the next exit:
And the next:

And the next:

"It was a dark and stormy night..."
Haha! Sorry, just wanted to try out that sentence.
(WHT: If you stacked all the sausage patties WH serves in one day, it would reach the top of the Empire State Building.)

The next two exits? Heck, just south of Chattanooga, TN, I spotted one exit with a Waffle House on each side. They'd catch you coming or going.

Sometimes, I was going a little too fast to get to the side of the road to snap a photo.

But I didn't let that stop me from capturing the moment.

This one loomed up on me so fast that I could only point and click.

Not exactly sure where this was, but somewhere in Tennessee, I believe.
(WHT: Waffle House Restaurants serve 10,000 T-bone steaks per day.)

I almost missed this next one. Do you see it?

The sign is behind the tree. I put a little arrow in, just in case you struggled to see it behind the tree. Click on the photo and you'll see it.

I don't want you to go away thinking that I wandered and meandered all the way across five states taking these pictures without ever getting a meal in one.

Waffle Houses are something special in the Southeastern United States and you have to be in a particular mood to eat there.
Or you have to be a trucker. Truckers can eat there any day of the week and any time of the day, it would seem. But... that's another story.
This was my first ever-meal in a Waffle House, and I chose the one in Wytheville ("withVILLE"), Virginia, to take the plunge.
The menu is limited. Waffle House pretty much sticks to eggs, bacon, waffles, steaks and anything that you can do with those items. Plus chili.
(WHT: WH customers consume more than 2% of the total eggs produced in the USA for foodservice, every year. That's 185,000,000 eggs annually.)
They also serve a "garden fresh salad" but I suspect the "fresh" is a misprint.

Ordering salad in a Waffle House is rather like ordering a burrito in a Chinese restaurant. It'll arrive, but you may wish to rethink that choice. I wish I had.

After a day of junk food and sandwiches in the car, and with another 5 hours in the car still ahead, I couldn't face more carbs. I ordered the chili and BLT ("with six slices of bacon!") combo with a soda for $5. (It's a "recession special." Please: nobody tell them the recession is over; I don't think they like change.) I had the sandwich wrapped to go and ate the chili and added a salad.
The chili was pretty good; the salad was um, a salad. But here's what made the whole experience stand out as fresh:
That's TJ on the left and Beth on the right.
TJ has worked there a month and when I walked in, she asked "Can I help you?" that seems to be a universal question among Southerners. They always want to help, see to your comfort, get you a glass of sweet tea or start fixing whatever it is that ails you.
Beth has been there several years and is from Pennsylvania. She's an accomplished hand at Waffle House waitressing.
Beth is still training TJ just a little and carries the burden well. She made my BLT ("six slices of bacon") and wrapped it up with a smile. I think she even looked the other way as I examined the silverware.
Waffle Houses are so small that they generally have a cook in the back and two waitresses during the lunch and dinner rush. (They are open 24 hours, so in "the wee hours," a graveyard waitress is often alone out front.)
On the whole, it was an interesting and entirely satisfactory experience. Perhaps more so from an anthropological standpoint than on a gustatory angle. But it was interesting and all six pieces of bacon were accounted for on the BLT which I ate for lunch the day after.
And I will be back. Their hashbrowns--chunked, smothered and scattered all the way--is an experience I will want to savor after a day a little less Cheeto'd.


CWork said...

I remember those places from our travels across country as a kid. Kind of like Stuckey's in the lower midwest.

Marti said...

Minus the pecan logs and plus a couple cases of bacon and yes, that's exactly it!

Terry said...

Do you remember the classic photo of Stuckeys that was in Life magazine back in the 1960's?

The restaurant was in the background, the filling station associated with it in the foreground, and towering overhead a Stuckey's sign emblazoned with the message:


Nuff said.

@jenhalloran said...

I'm a "scattered, smothered and covered" girl, myself. (I also love the pecan waffle.) It's a long-standing tradition for my dad and I to breakfast at Waffle House during my trips back home. The one thing I could do without: the all-enveloping smoke.

Thanks for the nostalgic journey, WH-style.

Marti said...

I would never have guessed, Jen. What a great tradition with your dad. :)

As for you, Terry...haha!

Jen said...

Love all the pictures. Now, if only we could get Cafe Rio in Utah to be so ubiquitous.