The Waffle House experience

Do you like the Waffle House, the Waffle House, the Waffle House? Do you like the Waffle House, because I do too.

On our drive from LA to Raleigh, it seriously seemed like there was either a Waffle House or a Cracker Barrel at every major exit along the 40. Neither of us had ever been to a Waffle House and they were always mildly intriguing with their simple box design and unassuming yellow and black signs. The parking lot is always three times the size of the actual “restaurant” as if they are expecting loads of buses at any minute to drop off the waffle-aficionado crowds. Well, my wait has ended and I have had THE WAFFLE HOUSE EXPERIENCE.

This morning a friend of mine invited me for breakfast in Durham. Per usual, the Waffle House was right off the 40 and easily accessible for all vehicle sizes…the larger the better. As soon as I entered the building I was welcomed with a “hi, hello, hiya” from everyone behind the counter. It was fabulous. Shortly after we arrived my friend plugged the Music Machine with a tattered $5.00 bill (new ones apparently don’t work) and started off our 35 song repertoire with “The Waffle House Song”. At this point two of the waitresses started singing and dancing while the rest of the place clapped along. Again it was fabulous.

Although the diner is very minimalistic, the booths are small, and there is a lot of smoke to contend with in the morning, it is an interesting social experiment with a lot of characters. One look around the place and you realize you have a slice of every race, income bracket and education represented. The food is also decent and the service was spot on.

My friend also has an approach with the Waffle House staff that is certainly worth sharing. He has taken the time to know the people there and learn a bit about their lives. Almost all of them are supporting someone else and depend on this minimum wage job to earn a living. They work hard and seem to have fun doing it. He completely believes in giving back to his community and leaves $20 each time he goes there. If he invites you to breakfast, he’ll leave $20 for you too. That is a pretty cool way of making someone’s morning.

Ironically he wasn’t feeling very well about an hour after we left the diner. I guess the Waffle House wasn’t satisfied, and wanted him to give just a little bit more back today. Whatever you do, don’t make the Waffle House gods angry.

One response to “The Waffle House experience”

  1. Sarah,Thanks for writing this. I am, Matt, the friend who hosted Sarah’s first “Waffle House Experience.” A few points are worth clarifying for anyone truly paying attention. First, my “Waffle House Philosophy” is that I can choose to give $20 to my multi-million-dollar church and help fund their outreach efforts or very well paid (rightly so) staff or on-premise seminary (which I am not so thrilled about, but that is a whole different story) OR I can give $20 per meal at Waffle House and help a single mom or dad working their tail off trying to make ends meet as their life is still recovering from some trauma that they did not deserve.Typical trauma generally includes an abusive or addicted spouse or deadbeat, health problems or other personal drama. I choose the second option, because I believe it makes a HUGE impact on each person’s life when I do. The $5 for the juke box is to provide the Waffle House staff with a more pleasant work environment. If only we had more selection!Now for the second clarification, my stomach distress was actually caused by the rich food I ate for lunch and dinner the day before at a very high-end gormet restaurant. So be sure none of y’all dis no Waffle Houses, y’hear?I must say, Sarah was the most entertaining guest I have taken to date. She was throroughly entertained by the staff, but in return she was truly fun to watch as she continued to discover new facets of the best North Carolina has to offer.My hope and prayer is that many of you will take the “Waffle House Challenge” by visiting one, paying $20 per meal and throwing an old $5 bill in the juke box. Please do not tell them what you are doing, just do it. By the way, one last side benefit is that you do not actually have to go to the register and wait to pay, because you will be giving them a massive tip and they will be happy to pick your $20s of the table and ring everything up after you leave.I wish y’all His best in all ways always,Matt, the transplanted yankee.

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