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Thursday, December 6, 2012
When construction started on Oaktree Boulevard in Christiansburg, it did not take long to recognize the unmistakable shape of a Waffle House rising from the vacant lot. The restaurant opened Oct. 15, but the fledgling staff is still getting used to the heat in the kitchen.
Started in 1955 in a suburb of Atlanta, Waffle House has become a roadside icon for travelers. Kristine French is the manager of this new location, and she gladly shared with us a pride in her employees and a desire to please customers. We made several visits, and on each we were welcomed with a greeting and served with a smile. Southern hospitality was evident each time our servers called us “sweetie” or “honey.”
Waffle House serves … well, waffles. Choices include a plain waffle ($3.05), pecan waffle ($3.55), or waffle with sausage or bacon ($5.50). The sweet, rich waffles are round and served with margarine and syrup. We did send one back because of some black spots — a sign of a dirty waffle iron — but the next one was fine. After, we noticed some extra training going on behind the counter to keep that waffle iron clean.
The All-Star Special ($7.09) puts two eggs, grits, toast, a waffle and your choice of bacon, sausage or ham in front of you. There is nothing fancy going on at Waffle House, which probably is why the food is fairly consistent . Our eggs were always cooked as ordered, and the bacon was always crisp.
If you sit at the counter, you can watch an orchestrated medley of frying pans, flat grill, and waffle irons turn out orders at a brisk tempo. We knew some training must have been in progress, because nine people were behind the counter at one time. All of our food did not arrive at the same time, so the eggs were cold by the time the bacon arrived. That’s something that should improve.
There was a time when a cup of coffee was a cup of coffee. Now, even Waffle House gives you a choice of Specialty Dark Roast or Classic Blend. Our servers never let our cups get empty and offered us to-go cups so we could continue to build our caffeine buzz — what a bargain for $1.50.
It’s not a steakhouse, but the steak and eggs at Waffle House (two eggs and a 5-oz. USDA Choice steak), served with a Texas biscuit and grits for $8.30, was filling and enjoyable. The thinly cut steak was tender and seasoned well. The tables feature an array of condiments, so we didn’t have to ask for steak sauce, although the steak did not need it. A Texas biscuit is a biscuit split in half and grilled like Texas toast. The biscuits are dense, but they take the grilling well and are a nice alternative to white or wheat toast.
On another visit, we ordered the Angus steak burger ($3.90). The quarter-pound patty was topped with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and grilled onions, and served on a grilled bun. It is one of the best fast-food burgers you can buy. Don’t think about french fries, though, because they don’t have them. Instead, they offer their famous hash browns ($1.65), shredded potato cooked on a flat grill until crispy. Diners have the option of upgrading their hash browns with a choice of sauteed onions, cheese, ham, tomatoes, jalapenos, mushrooms, chili, and/or sausage gravy at an additional 40 cents per item, or $4.95 for all.
Waffle House offers a good value for the price, and the staff has mastered hospitality. But a few glitches indicate that while the building may be complete, the construction of a perfect staff needs a bit more time.
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