A lot of people think of Waffle House as just a Southern thing. Veteran travelers, however, know that you can find clusters of Waffle Houses off the major interstates of Ohio, Kansas, and Colorado, and the welcoming yellow signs are actually spread clear across from Pennsylvania to Arizona. New York, California, and a lot of the Northern states are out of luck, however. But on September 5, Waffle House will really celebrate its Southern heritage as part of National Waffle Day. That’s when the chain’s Georgia home is made a state landmark as the birthplace of greasy 24-hour food that’s perfect for overnight driving or getting fueled for the next day’s hangover.
Of course, Waffle House is mostly thought of as a wholesome family place. That was certainly the aim of Joe Rogers and Tom Forkner when they opened their first restaurant in 1955. The location was the Atlanta suburb of Avondale Estates — that’s the same address that’s being served up a hot historical marker from the Georgia Historical Society. The original site is no longer a humble restaurant, though. Nowadays, the hallowed ground serves as the Waffle House Museum in Decatur, Georgia.
Waffle House has certainly become a legendary location. The chain had its late-night reputation further cemented when Kid Rock went to court over a 2007 brawl in a Georgia Waffle House. In fact, Waffle House is kind of an unofficial celebrity hangout. Plenty of celebrities keeping their late hours on the road end up at Waffle House as the sole 24-hour restaurant in town. Southerners know the place is a favorite of college football coaches, but Waffle Houses all over America have hosted celebs like Vince Vaughn, Robert Downey, Jr., and Shaquille O’Neal. There’s also a famous musical connection with the Waffle House jukebox, which is always loaded with custom songs like “I’m Going Back To The Waffle House” and “Waffle House, Thank You.”
Of course, some things have changed over the years. There’s no longer any real butter or cream on the counters, and the chain has gone with a clunky coffee mug more appropriate for a doughnut house. But it’s still the home of incredible pecan waffles, and has inspired many a college student — and touring rock band — to come up with clever variations of the Waffle House options of “scattered, smothered, or covered” (in reference to how you get your hash browns with onions and cheese).
You can also get a T-bone steak there anytime — veteran road-trippers can really appreciate that. And don’t worry about hungry travelers accidentally pulling up to the Waffle House Museum late at night. There’s an actual Waffle House right up the street. And thankfully, it’s not the one where Kid Rock got in this fight…
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