A person’s first visit to a Waffle House can be very frightening, what with the cold tile floors, the cheap, aspirin-colored lighting, and the dark film of grease that forms on your face within a minute of your arrival.
With over 1,700 locations clustered mainly in the American South, Waffle House is the poor suffering redheaded bastard stepchild of American restaurant chains. Their ugly yellow illuminated signs stick high into the air and scar many an otherwise beautiful Southern mountain landscape.
As much as I may strain to appreciate Waffle House ironically, I’ve always found them to be depressing little boxes of grease and cement. I ingested my first questionably nourishing Waffle House meal about 20 years ago near a Motel 6 in Tucson, and I think I may have been just high and munched-out enough to enjoy the place’s grim design style and punitively oleaginous cuisine without vomiting. I also remember having to eat at a Waffle House in the middle of the night in the middle of the winter in the middle of Missouri because there were no other restaurants around—an experience that was roughly as joyful as it sounds. But it was the time I got sick after eating at a Waffle House in northern Florida where the whole place smelled like a urinal cake that made me forever swear off their food.
Granted, your experiences may be different. My point is not to cast aspersions at what I’m sure are literally, at the very least, dozens of fully functional, delicious, and clean Waffle Houses throughout this great and noble land. Though Waffle House’s detractors are legion, so are its supporters, which is why #WaffleHouse always seems to be trending on Twitter, especially in the middle of the night when people are drunk and all the other restaurants are closed. But before you make the possibly life-altering decision to go and have a meal at Waffle House, I believe it is my duty as a reporter to inform you of what could happen.
1. You Could Be Shot
Luckily for the victims, there have been nonfatal shootings reported at Waffle Houses in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas. Although, admittedly, the odds are that if you’re shot at a Waffle House anywhere in the country you won’t technically be shot to death, patrons at Waffle Houses in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina have suffered precisely that grim fate. The point is that although you likely won’t get shot at Waffle House, you may be, so it may also be advisable to wear protective gear or at least learn how to duck quickly.
2. You Could Be Stabbed
Again, for the sake of fairness I must reiterate that chances are you won’t be shot at Waffle House. Neither is it a sure thing that you will be stabbed there, either, but it has happened far too many times to give a completely sane person any sense of total comfort while dining there. People have been stabbed at Waffle Houses in Alabama, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia. I’m not suggesting it’s going to happen to you while you’re eating your sliced, diced, ‘n’ chunked home fries, only that it’s happened in the past—that’s all. I don’t wish to alarm you or anything.
3. You Could Be Assaulted By A Famous Douchebag Musician From Michigan
In 1998, members of Caucasian hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse were arrested and charged with assault after a dust-up at an Indiana Waffle House. They pled guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct, but whether it’s being assaulted by Insane Clown Posse or merely having to eat while they’re running around conducting themselves in a disorderly manner near you, is the cholesterol-drenched waffle and the baseball-sized dollop of pure butter melting atop it really worth the trouble? In 2007, fellow Michigan douchebag musician Kid Rock, who looks in his mug shot there as if he is entirely composed of ball sweat, was arrested in connection with a late-night brawl at a Waffle House near Atlanta:
This isn’t to suggest that every famous douchebag musician from Michigan will assault you if you happen to be eating at the same Waffle House as them—only that it seems statistically likelier that it may occur.
3. You Could Be Poisoned
There have been reports of chemical leaks at Waffle Houses and of county Health Departments closing down franchises due to unsanitary conditions. There are online snitch boards where anonymous commenters complain of atrocious conditions at their local WH franchise. A Dateline NBC study on America’s 10 “largest casual restaurant chains” allegedly found Waffle House ranking first in the number of “critical violations.” But then again, this may not be the typical Waffle House dining experience…but it sure makes you wonder.
4. You Could Become The Victim of Discrimination
At this point, Waffle House, Inc. has already settled over 20 lawsuits alleging racial discrimination. It has also been sued for creating a “sexually hostile work environment.” In 2012, an Ohio Waffle House was the scene of an alleged anti-gay hate crime. I must reiterate that it’s not certain you will be lynched, sexually harassed, or gay-bashed if you decide to dine at Waffle House, only that there’s an outside theoretical chance it could happen.
5. You Could Put On Weight
Waffle House cuisine typically seems to be some iteration of carbs fried in lard and powdered in sugar, then rubbed in hog grease. According to this site, the ham and cheese omelet alone will pack 1,000 calories somewhere around your midsection. No matter how good it tastes when you’re wasted at three in the morning, is it really worth risking a heart attack 30 years down the line…in addition to all the remote chances that you may be shot, stabbed, or gay-bashed? Really?
6. You Could Have a Great Time
Anything’s possible in this big, wild, wacky world, so it could happen. You and a group of friends could go there after church and have a grand old time sharing Bible verses as you send forkfuls of scrambled eggs sliding down your gullet. You could go there late at night after the bars have closed, and if there’s no one there who wants to shoot or stab you, you might actually enjoy a salty plate of grease and sugar as you sober up enough to drive without crippling yourself. You may secretly rendezvous there with a lover as part of a tawdry love affair that would bring your tiny Southern town crashing down amid a tangled web of scandal and heartbreak. You may have the time of your life there again and again until you die of heart disease—it is not my place to judge. But I feel it incumbent upon myself to sternly warn you that as with all guilty pleasures such as unprotected sex and driving while uninsured, eating at Waffle House carries with it a fair degree of risk.