commentary by Alex Hodges, Campus Carrier Arts & Living Editor
Waffle House, an American restaurant with 381 locations in the state of Georgia alone, has been a go-to for college students for years. Relatively low prices coupled with the variety of options for breakfast and lunch make Waffle House an ideal spot for late-night or early morning hangouts.
Accompanied by my good friend and Viking Fusion News Producer, Noah Syverson, I paid visits to each of the three locations in Rome to, as objectively as possible, evaluate my experiences and ultimately decide which of the restaurants provides the best overall experiences for college students.
For the sake of the narrative, I’ll follow the events of the evening chronologically.
Noah and I set out shortly after 11:00 p.m. for the furthest location, just off of US-411 in southeast Rome. Upon entering, we were immediately greeted by a smiling waitress, who offered to turn up the heat for us and get rid of the cold. I asked for a coffee, which was brought to me within a minute. I ordered a couple of biscuits with gravy just to have something simple.
While we awaited our food, I paid close attention to the atmosphere. This particular Waffle House neighbors a service station, and the bright fluorescent light coming in through the large windows of the restaurant was actually quite comforting. There was no music playing from the jukebox, but the sounds of the griddle and the dishes being washed provided enough of an auditory stimulation to establish a calmly busy ambience. This was also the cleanest I have seen a Waffle House.
Within eight minutes, our food was brought out to us. It was served at what I would say is a good temperature: not scalding, but hot enough to relieve any tension resultant of the cold weather.
We paid for our food and left at 11:58 p.m. to venture into West Rome to the Shorter Avenue location.
At 12:19 a.m., we arrived. This waitress seemed less than enthusiastic about having a table. The atmosphere at this location was almost heavier. It was not as clean, and the air smelled of grease. A couple of the present employees yelled to each other across the restaurant sporadically throughout our time there. There was music playing, however, which made it easy to ignore the bantering of the employees. We placed our orders, and our food was served quickly. A hashbrown bowl was my main course for the night. After eating our food and quietly jotting down our notes, we went on our way. We pulled out of the parking lot a little before 1:00 a.m.
By 1:10 a.m. we were seated at the Martha Berry location. The first thing I noticed about this restaurant was how quiet it was. Music was not playing, and there were not any other customers. There was not traffic on the road outside, this time of night. The calm was complimentary of the “home stretch” feeling of being at the last of the three restaurants.
Our waitress was very polite and was glad to serve. Aside from the small talk she made with the cook at the griddle, there was not any conversation other than between Noah and me. It was a warmer, more inviting environment. I ordered toast to finish off my three-course meal for the evening. It was served with too much butter, but other than that, perfectly toasted and up to Waffle House standards.
The restaurant was noticeably clean. From the small amount of drying floor left, it was clear that they had mopped within an hour prior to our arrival. The menus were not sticky or dirty, and the dishes were squeaky-clean.
Now, one would say that the Martha Berry location had a leg up on its competitors due to its proximity to Berry’s campus, but ignoring that completely, it still provided the best overall experience. It was left up to Noah and me to make of it what we could. The emptiness and calm atmosphere allowed us to fill the space with what we wanted to, making it a quality place for students to hang out, socialize and unwind. On top of that, Waffle House’s menu items are always good, for what they are, and they are cheap, consistently and quickly made breakfast foods.