I walked two miles to get to Waffle House yesterday while my car was getting worked on. It was worth it.

Okay, so maybe not everybody sees Waffle House quite the way I do. I imagine you can substitute your own ideal travel restaurant, be it Cracker Barrel or the Golden Arches, or whatever. Thing is, growing up my family took me on a lot of road trips. My mother almost always cooked at home. She even made lunch. So going out to eat AT ALL was always a treat for me as a kid. While traveling, we ALWAYS stopped at Waffle House. It was imperative, not only because it was quick and cheap, but because we all thought it was delicious.

It is, still, in case you’re wondering.

If the food is one thing, it is greasy… But like a special, crispy, hot kind of greasy that melts in your mouth. I’ve only ever ordered breakfast. Everything gets cooked on the same griddle behind the counter, and all the orders are shouted at the line cooks by the waitresses. (I don’t think I’ve ever been served by a man at a Waffle House. The one I visited had 3 servers and two line cooks, all women.). Of special note are the hash browns with toppings, designated with adjectives for easier communication. Smothered. Covered. Chunked. Etc.

If you live in the south, you already know all this, but I am explaining for the benefit of the Yankees.

The decor is simple diner chic. The service is always excellent. Many of them are open at ridiculous hours of the morning. It’s cheap, okay? It’s not gourmet. And everybody uses the word ya’ll and no one cares. And the one I visited still allowed smoking, and big, fat, sweaty truckers are their main clientele.

I really can’t explain it better than: Waffle House is, to me, a reflection of the hard-working, keep-on-trucking, everybody’s equal, American experience. Yes, it’s cheap and greasy, and makes you fat. But it’s simple and good, too. Simple and good are details that make a road trip both easier and more memorable.

So here’s to you, Waffle House.

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