I have a longstanding love affair with Waffle House. The pictures above are from a road trip in 2005, at which point my relationship with this culinary institution was a tender 2 years old. I think the second photo in particular captures the optimal nook-and-cranniness of the wheat bread and beef patty, into which the square of American cheese has melted with perfect cremosity. Note, in particular, how the cheese's glistening yellow molecules stand in subtle counterpoint to the crunchy, golden hues of the butter-toasted bread, offset by the darker beef and a hint of grilled onion in the left foreground.
The first time I went to Waffle House was in 2003, also on a roadtrip. I was heading to Boston from Texas, with La Sorella as copilot and head troublemaker. We had just picked up my car, the same Nissan I drive today, from our dad, and we were driving it to Boston. There it would live for the next five years, collecting hundreds of parking tickets for ferrying me those five blocks between my apartment and campus on snowy mornings. I know, I know. Californians.
But on that trip, all we had before us was the open road in early August, hundreds of Waffle Houses to discover and the sweet exhilaration of possibility.
We hit our first one in Alabama.
I fell fast, and hard.
At first it was the waffles that got me: Golden and crispy, with a batter more consistent, less airy, that I would have thought I'd like. Love is gentle, love is kind. Love teaches you new things about yourself.
By the third or fourth Waffle House of the trip, I had switched to the patty melt, and I've never looked back.
In 2005, I drove cross country, from California to Boston, with Mr. A. We made the requisite stops, and on one such visit I snapped the photos above. I also waxed poetic to the waitress about their patty melts and she let me take home a coffee mug. I didn't even ask!
It's been years since I've had the privilege of dining there. But on this D.C. romp, I took a few days off to seek refuge in the rural enclaves of the Virginias.
Eau, my D.C. hostess, drove, and close to midnight we spotted it: a Waffle House, in [city name redacted to protect all parties; reasons will become clear below].
The patty melt was so good I ordered another. The coffee was watery and fragrant and diner-perfect. The scenery was so satisfying, as were the smells. And the company was exquisite.
As Eau and I ate, an idea occurred to me. La Sorella. She had eyed my mug, she had even possibly coveted it. What if I could get one for her, too?
Thus did I ask the waitress:
"So, I have a confession. I am obsessed with Waffle House, and my sister is too. She lives on the West Coast and I know she would loooove a mug. Do you think I could, like, buy one? How much do you think is fair. $5? $10?"
The waitress looked enchanted.
"I can't sell it, I wouldn't know how to ring it up, but," and here she lowered her voice, "why don't you just take it? I didn't tell you that. But seriously, during the bar rush every night, salt and pepper shakers disappear... the mug would not be missed."
"Yes. I'll just rinse it out and bring it back for you."
She did one better: let me finish my coffee in the mug I was using and returned with a clean specimen, discretely wrapped in paper and tucked inside a Waffle House plastic baggie.
Some would call that shoplifting, embezzlement, a combo of the two. I call it a souvenir. And I shall repay the value of that mug, many times over. With this blog post, which I hope sends other patty melt-o-philes to the House's warm embrace. And with my eternal devotion.
[images (c) The Daily Asker]