Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Restaurant Review: Waffle House
If there was a Cracker Barrel at every truck stop between Nashville and Manchester, then there were two Waffle Houses for every one Cracker Barrel. Those yellow block letters on the horizon called out to us, and at 6:30am before our 9am flight back to civilization, Lindsay and I stopped for breakfast.
We quickly learned that Waffle House restaurants (“Awful Waffle” to the locals) are open 24 hours, and offer both smoking and non-smoking sections in about 500 square feet of space. When we walked in, our waiter, Clarence, was finishing up his graveyard shift. Though the restaurant was empty except for the two waiters/cooks/bussers on duty, we sat at the counter next to a jug of bleach. Clarence promptly removed this bottle and cleaned off the counter. He handed us our menus, and the two of us ordered the following:
1 egg and cheese sandwich on white bread
1 egg, cheese and bacon sandwich on Texas Toast
1 large orange juice
1 order hash browns, with chopped onions mixed in
1 waffle with syrup and butter
Clarence was great. I’m not quite sure what he said, but he sure was friendly. He chatted to us the whole time as he made our egg sandwiches – neither washing his hands nor wearing gloves after cleaning up after the jug of bleach. And we even got pickles with our breakfasts, an accouterment to eggs I’m sure the chefs at the Ivy haven’t even considered.
As we ate we discovered that Clarence and his co-worker were finishing up the graveyard shift. The morning workers started trickling in one by one, with the shift supervisor, a scrawny woman in her late-50s wearing her gray hair in a bun and smoking a Virginia Slim with an inch of ash, coming in last. It was a sight to behold.
Yet again, I’d like to reiterate how much I enjoy it when stereotypes come to life.
With both egg sandwiches, a quarter of the waffle, and nearly half of the potatoes gone, Lindsay and I were nearing the end of our meal. But it was hard to leave. The staff was buzzing, talking back and forth about how busy it was going to be today now that all the out-of-towners were flying back home after Bonnaroo.
A group of 6 youngsters were stumbling up the walkway into the restaurant, and the wait staff was eyeing them as they walked in, each one fantasizing about the tip six out-of-towners were going to leave. As soon as they walked in, a sassy waitress pounced on them with the one question we heard at every restaurant in Tennessee: “Smokin’ or Non-smokin’?”
The kid at the front of the pack said, “Non, please.”
Her response? “Well, there ain’t nobody smoking over here!”
I nearly choked on my Texas toast I was laughing so hard.
Now, you might be wondering how much this fine Nashville meal cost us. This mammoth breakfast of eggs, potatoes, waffles, bacon, pickles and endless cup of coffee set Lindsay back a whopping thirteen dollars. Thirteen dollars for both of us. I don’t think you can get a single vodka gimlet at the Ivy for $13. And when Lindsay handed the cashier a twenty to pay for our $13 meal, she received $13 in change.
Lindsay smiled, handed the cashier $6 for the register and left the rest on the counter for Clarence.
Maybe he’ll buy some hand soap.