SUNDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2021 – The Great Southern Escapade began dark and early, when at about 5:15 in the morning Becca and I crossed the Verrazano Bridge leaving Brooklyn and the New York City COVID spike far behind us. Our route to Charlotte took us down I-95 through Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, and upon crossing the Mason-Dixon line five hours after departing New York, we decided to stop in Glen Allen, VA for gas ($3.19, which is cheap for us) and a quick lunch.
When in Rome, do what the Romans do: Go to the Waffle House.
We of the North hear about Waffle House in mythical tomes. Soldiers of fortune have waged great battles of legend at their establishments. (Of course I mean drunk folks have gotten into screaming matches in their parking lots at 4:00 in the morning.) It has earned its status. To the many patrons who dine there, the Waffle House is church, a safe haven, a 24-hour unassuming temple of simple pleasures.
We each got a waffle, hash browns, a side of bacon, and all the coffee our tired hearts and stomachs could handle for a paltry $25. That order up in Kings County, New York would set you back twice that amount at most eateries. Of course, you can argue that quality matters when it comes to price; those Brooklyn places offer more in that aspect. But sometimes all you want is a simple breakfast, and even places that claim to offer such a product – the Neptune Diner on Classon and St. Marks, for example – will still charge a relative arm and leg compared to the Waffle House. I can guarantee you the food won’t taste as good either.
“But Will, did it really taste good, or did you feel sentimental about your first Waffle House experience?” I promise you, there is a reason why folks flock to the Waffle House, despite the pedestrian fare and presentation. Sometimes you just want a basic waffle and a few sides, a chat with the guy in the next booth over, and maybe some local people-watching. Waffle House provides that simplicity at a price that doesn’t break the bank, making it an accessible and delicious option for all.
And I think that’s what endeared us – as is the case for so many – to Waffle House. You don’t have to look fancy or have enough money or be somebody to get a good hot meal. You can stumble in at the crack of dawn drunk off your ass or be down and out or have spent the last several hours on the road, and you can get yourself right in a simple booth and a plate of food for pocket change. It’s Southern hospitality packaged up in the form of a diner.
We continued our trip to Charlotte with full stomachs, ready to explore the Queen City. More on that later; by the time this posts, we will already be en route to Mississippi. (We also will have eaten at another Waffle House in Charlotte.) I realized it would be impossible to update this blog while traveling, as I want to experience everything without worrying about posting right away. So I’ll report back with the details after the new year once I’ve had time to process this wild and crazy endeavor. Happy holidays and happy new year, and to all the Waffle House staffers around the South, God bless you.
UPDATE: Made it halfway to Mississippi before this even posted. Did in fact stop at the Charlotte Waffle House early before getting on the road. To Shelly and Angie (sorry if misspelled) at Waffle House #1157, thanks for taking care of two hungry and sleepy Northerners.