Monday, July 21, 2014

Waffle House

Festus, Mo.

You know where it is, just off the Interstate.
The one in Festus, overlooking I-55 is pretty much just like the other 2100 locations in 25, mostly southern, states.
The Place:
There's something quite laudable about consistency, simplicity and efficiency. Also, another Boy Scout-like quality, preparedness.
"The ability of a Waffle House to remain open after a severe storm, possibly with a limited menu, is used by FEMA as a measure of disaster recovery known as the Waffle House Index."
Yeah, they're ready for it. Portable generators, a stockpile of food, and a healthy Disaster Preparedness plan.
The same can be said about the food, simple, clean, unfettered by sparkles and bling.
Open 24/7/365, fair weather or foul, they've got what you want, when you want it.
The place is small, cozy, friendly. The diner-like layout encourages interaction with the crew, and the crews I've come across are always willing to chat, a little or a lot.
Angel had a craving, a hankering for hash browns this week. I don't try to understand or explain these things, I just go along for the ride. I can enjoy breakfast for dinner, lunch, or even breakfast, just about any time.
It wasn't very busy this warm but pleasant Saturday night. Someone said that everyone was at the fair, the Jefferson County Fair, in Hillsboro.
The fair was exactly why we decided to not go to a place in Hillsboro. Whenever and wherever a throng of people are gathering, we can be found going the other way.
I was of limited mind. For two nights in a row my ankle collar, rather, my work phone, had interrupted my precious nights' sleep multiple times. Functional, but listing off task quite a bit.
We stepped in and picked from several open booths.
The Food.
The menus were two sides of a legal-paper sized, colorful, laminated card. Limited options, sure, but everything you need. A young lady name-tagged 'Rebequa' stopped by and asked about drinks. Coffee, sweet tea and Coke. We flipped the menus several times, as if we didn't know what we wanted.
Actually, I was taking a risk. I was not going to order two eggs, over medium, bacon, hash browns (with onions) and toast, which is my normal order for places like this. I decided to go off the map. I knew they could whip together a good breakfast, time to push the envelope, live on the edge.
I finally picked the 'Texas Bacon Cheesesteak Melt, a sandwich. It came with hashbrowns, I 'smothered' mine, onions.
Angel asked 'Rebequa' about the portion sizes of the hash brown meals. She pulled out the stops. She went for the large, adding onions, ham and sausage gravy (smothered, chunked and country.) She added two scrambled eggs on the side, said no thanks to toast because that just seemed excessive.
Adam picked his go-to plate, the two egg (scrambled) All-Star special, toast, hash browns (plain), bacon and a waffle.
Smothered, Chunked, Country.
I announced my choice and got stares from the family.
'Becca' as her crew members called her, scurried off. I was going to ask her about the spelling of her name, but decided against it, that's exactly what she wanted people to do.
The food came pretty fast, I'd only made it through one Angry Bird level. Angel and Adam had not made it very far into whatever they were e-devicing either. No complaints though.
The plates came out and looked perfect. The scrambled eggs were all bright and moist, not overcooked. The hash browns looked crunchy. As her plate appeared before her, Angel moaned, the moan of a woman about to be perfectly satisfied.
Adam's took more than one plate, three to be exact, the waffle and the bacon each got their own. I personally don't care too much for WH's waffles, too cake-y and sweet. Adam immediately blasphemed and covered his with syrup (blech!).
Why so many pickles?
My sandwich looked simple. Not over stuffed, not pouring out of the edges. Many places go overboard with sandwiches, I prefer that they don't. I was worried about it a little though. In my mind I had accepted the fact that the steak would be tough and dry. I didn't know where that premonition came from, but it was a risk I was willing to take. It was accompanied by a squeeze pouch of 'real mayonnaise' and more pickles than were necessary. I shoved a few into the sammich though, squeezed in a little mayo.
Adam sorted his all out, keeping it all on separate plates. I would have
mushed everything together, but he's his own man.
Across from us, sitting at the counter, a husky, middle aged man continued bantering with the crew. He seemed familiar to them, calling them each by name. Then they started discussing schedules, covering shifts and I got the impression that we might be in the presence of the owner/manager.
They were discussing how light the traffic flow in the diner had been, he chalked it up to the fair.
"But they'll come here when afterwards won't they?" One of the young ladies asked him.
"Nah, they'll be too hot and tired and filled with deep fried carnival food." He answered.
"What about the drunks?" Another asked.
"They'll go to White Castle." He chuckled.
At another point they were discussing being nice to difficult customers. He had wisdom for that as well. "If they want bad service they can go to Huddle House." Everyone laughed at that as well. I liked this guy.
My sandwich surprised me. I was all ready  to be harsh, but it turned out to be pretty good! The steak was thin and moist, tender and tasty. It was no original Philly cheese steak, but for a local hash house, not bad, not bad at all.
The food disappeared rather quickly. Angel's moan turned into soft grunts and occasional single word essays. "Crunchy". "Gravy.", "Mmm." and "Perfect"
Rebequa laid the check down ($28.52) on our table as we were wrapping up. She took the empty plates away. I noticed she'd written her name on the check, not Rebequa, but rather Rebecca. Actually she spelled it out ReBecca. A real identity crisis going on with this one. I couldn't tell whether when the crew talked to her they were saying Becca or Bequa. Maybe she's on the run from the cops.
She was good though. Kept us refilled and cleaned off, got the orders exactly right. It was a fun meal, Waffle House is a happy place, even with all the drunks going to White Castle instead. I'd have to be very liquored up myself to ever step foot into that disgusting place.
The food was, as expected, fast and quite good, even the off-the-norm sandwich.
As I said at the top, there's something to be said for simplicity, quality and consistency. It is as dependable a place as you'll find. No fake pink meat slop, no added flavorings or preservatives, just good, hearty food, cooked quite well.

Waffle House on Urbanspoon

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