We just got a brand-new Waffle House in our neighborhood, so my wife and I had to try it out. I had never been to a new one before, just a few random visits to dingy, greasy Waffle Houses over the years, for a bit of variety or because it was late and nothing else was open. It never did much for me in the past, and I would never have driven out of my way or gotten excited to visit one.
Well, we've gone twice for mid-week breakfasts and once for a Friday evening dinner, and we love this place. It's bright and clean and shiny (and not due to grease), the service is friendly and excellent, and the food is delicious and ridiculously cheap.
My wife absolutely loves the hash browns and argues they are the best she's ever had. I'm not inclined to disagree. Usually I don't care for hash browns -- they're often tasteless, greasy, and somehow dry at the same time, and can only be salvaged by copious amounts of ketchup. But these have a perfect, lightly-crispy, golden-brown exterior and an almost creamy interior. She likes hers plain. Once I made the mistake of ordering mine smothered, covered, etc. (grilled onions, melted cheese, chili, AND jalapenos). That ended up making a mess and overpowering the hash browns (and my poor stomach). I'll never do that again.
The waffles are delicious -- better than any belgian waffles I've ever had at frou-frou brunch places and even the super-snotty Norma's in New York City, where tuxedoed waiters shower tourists with contempt. These are flatter waffles, not the belgian style, but they share the hash browns' perfect crispy exterior and soft interior. They're sweet, but not like a dessert. I like the peach waffles, with real chunks of peach baked in and a peach syrup on top, which I realize makes it more desserty.
I've also discovered the joy of Waffle House cheeseburgers. There is a "value menu" section on the back of the two-sided laminated menu, including an "old-fashioned" single cheeseburger for $1 and a double cheeseburger for $2. These are smaller than their regular cheeseburgers, but the $2 double cheeseburger is a tremendous value. They butter and grill the bun for all of them, and even the small, "old-fashioned" burgers come with freshly-grilled onions. I tried the larger, more expensive burger once, which came with lettuce and tomato, but the $2 double had a perfect meat-to-cheese-to-bun ratio, the grilled onions were a really nice touch, and you already have all the condiments you could possibly need on the table. The burgers are juicy, but the edges get crispy like a nice diner burger -- definitely a step up from most fast food places.
Waffle House often gets maligned as a grease pit, or a place you go late at night when you're drunk and nothing else is open, or a sad rest stop along lonesome highways. I never sought them out, but I've loving this one, and I implore everyone give theirs another chance with fresh eyes and an empty stomach. I'll take their food over Perkins (my least-favorite sit-down breakfast place), Denny's, IHOP (my previous favorite breakfast place), and even the once-beloved Cracker Barrel. Heck, I'll take it over a lot of local greasy spoon diners that are overpriced, mediocre, and not nearly as friendly. The staff at our Waffle House HUSTLES, and they're so incredibly nice, and I make sure to tip them like a boss. (I imagine it's a somewhat seedier scene late at night, but we never stay out like we did in our 20s.)
Plus, it has a jukebox, although I haven't attempted to force my excellent musical taste on anyone at the Waffle House yet.