A blog dedicated to my (moderate) obsession with road food, music and what to drink when you finally get there.

 

#49 Fridays of Waffle House, Week 5: Buzz Gets an A

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This sort of looks like a Waffle House. It has Waffle House signs and colors. It has a Waffle House menu (more about that in a minute). The staff wears Waffle House uniforms. And they still call out “scattered, smothered, covered” and so on.So it must be a Waffle House, right?

Except that it’s located in, and there’s no way to say this politely, the 21st century version of a strip mall- otherwise known as “mixed use development.” 

Waffle House #1885 was built just a few years ago to take advantage of rapid development in the midtown area of Atlanta designed to serve the growing and expanding campus community of the Georgia Institute of Technology. All of the new construction, services and businesses are not unwelcome additions to what used to be a pretty seedy part of the midtown area. And any area that houses one of the few remaining bookstores in the entirety of the United States has got to be an improvement over almost anything that used to be there, right?

I think I approve of the recent trend to build Waffle Houses into office buildings and other new construction as a part of the fabric of the city. All of the old corner diners seem to have faded away only to give way to more and more restaurant chains and franchise operations and really lousy breakfast fare served up by fast food outlets like…but I digress. So even though Waffle House IS a chain AND a franchise operation even new ones like this seem old school by design. Besides- they can’t keep the grease from seeping into the grout of the tile floors forever, right?

So after being startled by the location- how did THIS particular Waffle House do?

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You’ll notice that they are so proud of their recent health department rating that they display it proudly right next to a pretty frightening statue of Buzz, the famous Georgia Tech mascot, who appears to be wearing a Waffle House uniform and standing on top of a waffle. Graduates of the University of Georgia will not be surprised to see that, once again, people affiliated with Tech are bragging relentlessly about their great grades ad nauseum. To which graduates of the University of Georgia respond with something like: Yeah but football blah blah blah. I suspect it was a disgruntled UGA grad who strategically placed the health department rating close to the nether regions of the aforementioned mascot.

So how was THIS Waffle House? Well, the menu was a limited version of the menu we’ve come to know and love. All of the essentials were there but I didn’t see the t-bone steak or pork chops or the new jalapeno cheese biscuit or the helpful way the new menu packages everything together in one low price. I didn’t see, for example, how to order sausage and two eggs with grits or hash browns and toast.

The place was more than reasonably clean; the staff friendly (except the server called me “sir” instead of “hon”…dang college kids!). The food was well-prepared: eggs scrambled and not chopped up while they cook, a nice brown cap on the hash browns and a coffee cup kept filled. I wasn’t too nervous sitting alone at the counter in broad daylight and saw scant evidence of former area residents. This Waffle House turns out to be a little…homogenized…a perfect fit for mixed use development.

So Buzz gets an “A” from the health department and this location gets a 6.0 because I’m still not quite comfortable with a mixed use development housing the kind of Waffle House I love in spite of the good food served there. Or maybe I just miss the more run down seedy historical frightening interesting parts of our town.

Astute engineering students at Georgia Tech will be the first to point out that on a 7 point scale my score of 6.0 only represents an 86, or B. Oh, ok; 85.7. And will no doubt accuse yet another journalist  writer chronicler of being in the tank for the University of Georgia. We’ll see. I plan to review the Bulldog Waffle House Diner in a few weeks time. 

I Suck at Yoga

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Call the lamas
I saw little Buddha in the checkout line
At the grocery store
Today
Call the lamas
He was sitting like a prince in his grocery cart
With a perfect smile
On his face. -Marshall Chapman

I don’t think there are very many people who regularly frequent their local Waffle House that also do yoga. I realize I am engaging in a gross generalization here but you couldn’t possibly do all of those twisty, bendy and occasionally painful things that they try to get you to do while you’re “on the mat” if you regularly enjoy your breakfast scattered, smothered, and covered. At least I can’t.

I suck at yoga.

I first encountered yoga through a class  called Yoga for Old Stiff Guys at a local studio several months ago and have (mostly) stuck with it since then. I was encouraged in this endeavour by my wife, A.K.A.The Woman Who Encourages Strongly Advises Suggests That I Do Most of The Things I End Up Doing That Are Good For Me. And I must admit- my back seems to be getting better and I am taking much less (insert the name of your favorite anti-inflammatory medication here- mine is naproxen) which is the reason I began in the first place.

Not familiar with yoga? Well, remember all of those balloon animals that clowns and other assorted entertainers used to create to try to impress you when you were a kid? That’s pretty much yoga. Except instead of balloons the teachers try to get actual PEOPLE to bend into those shapes.

They even call them animal names. Cat cow. Pigeon pose. Frog pose. Fish pose.  Downward facing dog.

Cow Face pose.

My wife hints that when saying “I suck at yoga” I am probably not entering into the true spirit of what yoga is trying to teach us: get centered, calm your mind, become more aware of the physical impact of your emotions, accept without judgement that where you are is where you are,  etc.

If that’s what it’s really all about and not just turning yourself into balloon animals I amend my statement.

Some days I REALLY suck at yoga. 

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#49 Fridays of Waffle House, Week 4: The first morning shift at #2000

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There is something a little unsettling about a brand new Waffle House. Am I the only one or are those smiley face balloons a little creepy- especially tied to the handicapped parking sign?

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Maybe it’s the condiments. If you’ll look closely they don’t have that crusted-over look around the caps yet. An even closer look reveals they haven’t been opened. Except for the Tabasco sauce. Which is as it should be.

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It might be the array of new, well-polished chrome; or all of those unused waffle irons; or the VERY clean floor; or the gleaming tile.

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Or it might be looking up to see THOSE guys staring down at you with relentless good cheer. You know who THEY are, right? Sitting beneath that sign while I snapped the pic was a screaming baby. I’m not kidding.

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It’s a little soon to give #2000 a rating; it was staffed with a number of folks that I know from #1000, where A Handy Man (it says so right on his business card) and I eat most Tuesdays. I PROMISED them I wasn’t cheating on them but just curious about what a new store looks like. They promised ME they were just there on a “training” mission and would be back at their regular store in a week or two.

The food was well-prepared; the waffle was nicely browned and eggs were scrambled, not chopped up while they were cooking. The coffee was hot. The screaming baby was mostly quiet. This one is out of my way but worth a second visit if I’m in the neighborhood.

Where have all of the waffle irons gone?

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The picture you see above is an actual waffle from Waffle House #1000. Look closely and you’ll notice that the center of the waffle has the words “Waffle House” branded into the final product even though this particular waffle is a little jacked up and appears to read “—ffle -ouse”.

This is a fairly new phenomenon and one that I think is pretty cool. But there are over 1800 Waffle Houses spread all across 26 states and a typical one has maybe 8 waffle irons- that means the company had to come up with over 14,000 new waffle irons.

At 20- 25 pounds each that’s a ton of old waffle irons floating around somewhere. Actually, 175 tons to be more precise. To put that in perspective:

* One 18-wheeler can legally carry a maximum load of 40 tons. That means it took almost 5 fully loaded semis to haul away all of the old waffle irons and then the same number to deliver the new ones.

* One shell for the 16-inch guns on the USS Iowa weighed 2700 pounds- that means the old Waffle House irons represent roughly the equivalent of 130 of the armor-piercing shells that rained down on Saipan, the Marshall islands and other Japanese holdings in WW II.

* The average locomotive weighs between 125-250 tons.

And with the new $5 double waffle special you may feel about that heavy after pouring on the butter partially hydrogenated oil and  maple corn syrup.

Where did all of those old waffle irons go?

They’re not on the shelf of the Salvation Army Store across the street from Waffle House #1000 where A Handy Man (it says so right on his business card) and I eat most Tuesdays. I know. I checked.

There hasn’t been a huge influx of used, institutional grade waffle irons on eBay. I know. I checked.

They haven’t cropped up in used restaurant supply houses here in Atlanta where Waffle House is headquartered. I know. I checked.

Where did they go?

If you see one let me know. I want one as a souvenir if my wife will let me bring it home and not make me throw it out like she did my beer can collection fairly soon after the wedding. Maybe A Handy Man and I could even get it to work. But don’t ask me to bring it over to your house for brunch. It weighs, well, you know, about as much as a large bag of dog food. And those things seem to me to be getting heavier by the year.

#49 Fridays of Waffle House, Week 3- #917

I stop at this Waffle House several days each month to grab something and bring it to my office. You DO occasionally get your Waffle House order to go, right?

The picture you see above is an idealized version of one of my favorite quick breakfasts although it seldom looks like that. It is amazing how many ways they can prepare a Sausage, Egg & Cheese Grits bowl. And how many different to-go containers they can put it in. I have counted at least five different containers along the way, including both the small and the large to-go stryofoam coffee cups, the actual to-go bowl, the to-go plastic platter AND the to-go breakfast plate.

You didn’t know there were so many different to-go containers? That’s why you have me and this blog. So you don’t have to be so observant..

To make a Sausage, Egg & Cheese Grits bowl they first plop a scoop of grits in the bottom of a container. On top of that goes a slice of american cheese. Then, maybe, more grits but usually not. And then it gets creative.

Do you add the PULL ONE HALF SAUSAGE next?  For you Waffle House neophytes that means the server wants the cook to start frying one increasingly thin sausage patty instead of the regular PULL ONE SAUSAGE which means to start cooking two sausage patties.

If you’re confused as to how one-half can equal one and one can equal two then my guess is you could be a Biblical literalist who recently hung on every word of the recent creationist versus Bill Nye the Science Guy debate and have questions about how old scientists say the universe actually is.

But back to Waffle House to-go orders.

The question confronting the cook when compiling to to-go order is whether to put the scrambled egg in the bowl FOLLOWED by the chopped up sausage. It’s an important choice, especially if you want the effect of scrambled eggs with the cheese …only in a bowl instead of on a plate. Besides, the coffee cup or bowl they put it in doesn’t really leave enough room to mix it all up without spilling on your desk. 

That brings us to the, uh, biscuit. I hesitate slightly because the Waffle House biscuit is really pretty ——- (insert your own derogatory adjective here). The subject of Waffle House biscuits needs to be a separate post at LEAST as long as my two-part series on gravy. We’ll leave that discussion for another day. Suffice it to say that this is one of the few times I prefer grape to any other jelly because the flavor is strong enough to (almost) mask the taste of grill grease. My best advice here is to befriend the staff so they’ll substitute (wheat) toast for the biscuit. When you’re ordering off of the $5 menu it’s a crap shoot as to whether they will enforce the strict confines of the menu listing but you can try.

Waffle House #917 gets a 6.6 on my 7-point scale and is among my all-time favorites. I’ve never had a terrible meal there. They ALWAYS call me sweetie. The cook knows how I like my eggs scrambled (a little soft and actually scrambled, NOT chopped up as they’re frying). And they let me substitute wheat toast for that ——— biscuit, especially when the young manager who wears the Waffle House camouflage cap isn’t around.

When they do that it’s a 6.8.