Waffle House Getting Props

FEMA Personal Writings

New Orleans      Here in the US South in what some call God’s country, as if there might be such a thing, one place that comes close to being ubiquitous is Waffle House and its over 2000 locations, the vast majority located here.  I’ve spent some time over the years in Waffle Houses, so seeing them getting some props here and there in the mainstream media quickly catches my eye, just like their bright yellow sign does on the highway.

Ironically, in recent years I’ve found myself at the counter for their reasonably priced 24-hour breakfast more in the Midwest than the South.  It was about the only place we could find to eat in Indianapolis before catching a flight home from there doing the ACORN Home Savers Campaign and the same around Columbus, Ohio, when I was going through there.  I first met our partner in the Voter Purge Project at the biggest and busiest Waffle House ever in Marysville, Ohio, about 30 miles out of Columbus.  Going back and forth to Atlanta trying to organize the ACORN Tenants Union, Waffle Houses were a go-to dependable choice.  There are even copy-cat Waffle Houses in Arkansas and Texas and maybe elsewhere, for all I know, called Huddle Houses.

The Economist praised the fact that FEMA has a Waffle House “index” in dealing with disasters: “if he arrived in an area that had been hit by a storm and found the local outlet shut, he knew he was dealing with a severe natural disaster.” In fact, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, they rebuilt quickly, so that they were like yellow stars along the highway hugging the water with one about every half-mile in the Biloxi-Gulfport area.  Something like that builds loyalty and committed fans.

Speaking of fans, I was surprised to see a piece talking about the trials and tribulations of food workers on late night shifts who end up in fights with rowdy customers.  It seems there have been YouTube videos with huge numbers of viewers of these fights.  The most famous seems to have been a post-midnight throw down at a Waffle House, where a crowd had developed that felt like they were waiting too long for the cook to platter the meals.  One thing led to another, and a customer threw a chair at the cook.  From the description filmed, the cook, a sturdy middle-aged African-American woman, executed a move so graceful it could have been on an NBA highlights reel, and brushed the chair away.  Of course, they fired her later as her fame grew, and I’m glad I wasn’t there to see it, but I might be the only one.  I mentioned this to colleagues recently and everyone seems to have watched this!

            Look, I’m not saying Waffle House is a must-eat for destination diners, but if you do go, I can vouch for the fact that the hash browns rock.