Saturday, January 24, 2015

Bad postcard of the week: Waffle House highlights road trip culinary adventures

I would have chosen the Waffle House over the Hansa House.
There was no vomit on the floor. Yes, I checked. 

Road trips provide opportunities for culinary adventures.

You should always look for different and exciting and new places to dine when you are traveling and can’t find a Panera Bread.

Our drive to Florida provided such adventures. Caroline and I set out our non-Michigan dining goals. She wanted a Jack in the Box taco, I wanted a Stuckey’s pecan roll and we both wanted to explore a Waffle House. My wife wanted no part of any of these things.

I get the feeling that the Hansa House, the subject of this week’s bad postcard, is the kind of place you visit while on the road and are hungry enough that you don’t care anymore. The back read tells us that the restaurant features a smorgasbord, can seat 350 people and is a block south of Disneyland.

The front photo reveals that there are plenty of seats available!

I’m sure it’s nice, but Caroline and I had our hearts set on Waffle House. There are none in Michigan, but we were in intrigued after hearing Jim Gaffigan’s routine.

Gaffigan is famous his stand-up routine's assault on Hot Pockets, but has since moved on to poking fun at Waffle Houses.

Bits include:

“Now, if you’ve never been to a Waffle House, just imagine a gas station bathroom that sells waffles. You’ve been to a Waffle House.

“Eh, that’s where I want to go at 2 a.m.. That’s where everyone goes. Their slogan should be: ‘It’s 2 a.m., still time to make one more bad decision.’”

“You ever go into a Waffle House during the day? That’s weird. ‘This place looks familiar; I think I threw up in here. Oh, there it is!’”

We are not deterred that easily.

I think we started spotting Waffle Houses at the first exit in Ohio. And then we saw another at the next exit, and the one after that and the one after that. In fact, I think we can honestly claim there was a Waffle House at every exit along I-75 in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

They can’t be bad, I argued, if there are so many of them. 

We finally stopped for the night outside Chattanooga, and, of course, there was a Waffle House. This was our chance! Caroline and I were allowed to walk over for a snack. This one was technically a “Waffle Ouse” since the familiar yellow sign was missing a letter. It was about 10:30 p.m.

We surveyed the surroundings. There were about four booths in front by the windows, then about six stools at the counter, and several more booths along the open food prep area that included a two-tier bank of waffle makers.
The two-tiered bank of waffle makers, complete with oozing batter.
Caroline, the Gnome of Victory of Celebration and I slid into a booth with a good view of the waffle makers. There were groups of high school kids or college kids in the booths near the front.

Our cheerful waitress approached from the other side of the counter. She didn't seem confused by the sight of a gnome on our table. She’s seen worse, probably that evening.

She handed us menus, as if we were ordering something other than waffles. It didn't occur to me that there were different kinds of waffles, including peanut butter! We are bold, but we weren't going to be crazy on the first trip. We ordered basic waffles.

We also learned that the cook called in sick, and the waitresses were preparing all the food. I was OK with that, since there’s probably no culinary arts degree necessary to pour waffle batter into to wall of waffle makers.

We watched the waitress spray the waffle maker with copious amounts of non-stick spray then pour waffle batter from a big, white plastic bucket into two of the five waffle makers.

Within seconds, warming waffle mix started overflowing from the sides. I noticed each of the five waffle makers had trays underneath to catch overflowing batter. 

Now, you’d think that people working at a place called Waffle House, and repeatedly carrying out the task of making waffles would give someone the knowledge of how much batter is required to fill the waffle maker.

Or, maybe watching batter bubbling out is part of the fun.

A few minutes and a couple beeps later, our yummy waffles made the short trip from maker to plate to table, and we happily dined, basking in the glory of our adventure.
The waffles were great, and we'll go back -- on our next road trip!

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