My gripe using the American South will not be with its alleged peculiarity, but instead its homogeneity – its smug boosterism, its passive-aggressive encoding of “good manners,” its landscapes parched and blasted by Christian surrender to corporate interests. And Waffle Home is, on the surface, nothing if not homogeneous. Each restaurant has the same shoe-box shape, exactly the same jukebox selection interlarded with Waffle House tributes and novelties, exactly the same plastic-coated place-mat menus, the same you-can-eat-there-drunk-four-o’clock-Christmas-morning hours, and, pretty much, the same layout. There’s a counter that faces a flat grill attended with a short-order cook who keeps a dorky, paper Waffle House hat perched on his crown, takes his orders exclusively by ear, and keeps his back to his audience as resolutely being a priest pre-Vatican II. Flanking the counter are a few scant booths outfitted with molded plastic benches that accommodate no more than four diners; visit a Waffle House with a party of 5 and you’re screwed. As a matter of fact, the standard Waffle House – and when you’re speaking of one, you’re speaking of all of them – begins with some liabilities for any restaurant in the American South purporting to focus on the American breakfast. The coffee? As bitter as regret. The maple syrup? As fake as the little plastic-packed side pots of butter, which, in turn, taste a lot better compared to the ghastly schmear of glistening fuel oil which comes on the prebuttered toast. As well as the waffles, the holy eponymous waffles? They’re okay, wide and round without being too thick, having a malty taste that mitigates their heaviness, but they’re even the first items on the table to get rid of heat, along with that, something similar to their molecular integrity. I mean, they start out as pale as something that lives within a rock, and before long, they just die, right there before you, and you end up eating around them. To be honest, I don’t know anyone who would go to Waffle House for your waffles, and they don’t serve pancakes any more than the Coca-Cola museum serves Pepsi.
So what makes Waffle Houses so great? Well, like a number of other Southern institutions, Waffle House overcompensates. Equally as your big Southern university overcompensates for your SAT lots of its students by playing some kickass SEC football, Waffle House overcompensates because of its bitter brew by serving truly delicious fountain products, such as the best made-from-syrup Cherry Cokes extant during these United States, with free refills yet. It overcompensates for serving frozen, grated devkqky95 potatoes by a) keeping them on the grill until they form a golden crust, thereby which makes them a perfect delivery system for the salt grains you are able to hear bouncing around on their own surface when you shake the shaker, and b) serving them a dozen ways. The variations are as follows: You may get them “Scattered,” meaning plain; you may get them “Scattered and Smothered,” meaning with chopped onions; you can get them “Scattered, Smothered and Covered,” meaning with cheese; you can get them “Scattered, Smothered, Covered and Chunked,” which means… well, I don’t know what it means, exactly, because I’ve never gotten that far. All I know is the fact that when Waffle House gets through with the variations on its frozen potatoes, it has made frozen potatoes into what Italians have made pasta, i.e., the bedrock of an entire culinary universe. And that’s how menu for waffle house works, in general. Its menu is narrow the way the choice of notes in “The Goldberg Variations” is narrow. Let diners expand their menus by simple, relentless addition; Waffle House relies on a greater math, so its menu, which seems a forthright declaration of its limitations, is actually a celebration of possibility.
Which explains why it’s a lot like the American South: There exists multiplicity within the homogeneity; there exists eccentricity that keeps forcing its way past the willful blandness. The fantastic gift of Waffle House is not too the food at every single one of its units tastes the same, though, in fact, it does; the great gift is the fact that each and every one of its units is different and owes something towards the vagaries of their location. We have gone to cracker Waffle Houses; We have gone to African-American Waffle Houses; We have been to poseur Waffle Houses; We have been to North Carolina Waffle Houses seemingly consecrated to the burning of the tobacco leaf; We have been to Waffle Houses frequented exclusively by truckers; We have been to Waffle Houses which have offered succor when I’ve gotten lost; I have gone to Waffle Houses which have helped me feel as if I would get killed within the parking lot. There are a lot of black people who won’t visit a Denny’s because of that chain’s history of discrimination; there are a lot of gay individuals who won’t go to a Cracker Barrel for the very same reason. There isn’t anyone who won’t visit a Waffle House, though, since you can always look for a Waffle House that suits you, and every Waffle House waitress greets you the same way, whether she’s a big black woman with gold teeth named after Elvis or perhaps a scrawny white woman whose teeth work as a type of redneck Rubik’s Cube.