How Waffle House Became America’s Premier Fighting Game Stage

If you’re looking to get smothered and diced along with your hash browns, it’s the place to be
How Waffle House Became America’s Premier Fighting Game Stage

Waffle House occupies rarefied air within the pantheon of American restaurants. Other chain restaurants might say that they have a vibe, but its usually one engineered to varying levels of success by multi-million dollar ad agencies. Is anyone genuinely walking around under the impression that what sets Burger King apart is its devotion to letting you have it “your way”? Taco Bell has quietly, secondarily embraced its role as the place to get absolutely demented items cooked up by a dab-ridden brain, but they still like to pretend theyre the sort of thing youd bring to a reputable party, with no concern for the hosts bathroom.

Waffle House, on the other hand, is half-diner, half-sovereign nation. The kid in school who always passes his classes, but also randomly disappears for three or four days and shows up without any explanation. Whats going on at home, Waffle House? Definitely not regular stuff. I wouldnt be surprised to discover that every Waffle House in the country was built on an intersection of long-lost ley lines, and will be central in the future release of some elder god. Its reputation as a source of chaos is so ingrained that there was recently a campaign to have it added to the newest iteration of Tekken as a stage. A campaign effective enough that it prompted the game’s creator to take to social media in order to figure out what this fabled combat restaurant is.

But I’ve come to realize that, though I know the popular lore of Waffle House, I do not know its real history. It almost feels like something a man was compelled to create through nefarious forces. Something he sculpted out of mashed potatoes on his family dinner table every night until it was completed and the voices let him rest. So, let's look into it: What is the true story of this storied house? Has violence been a part of its history since its inception, like gunpowder or the Catholic Church?

First, lets look to Waffle Houses website itself. This should give us a basis, though I expect them obviously not to address the fact that its a place where you can get bottled by a half-empty Heinz 57. They keep their story simple: Two neighbors, Joe Rogers Sr. and Tom Forkner, had an idea for a 24-hour restaurant. It was successful, and the iconic squared-off signs spread to the almost 2,000 locations operating today. They add, “All open 24-hours a day, seven days a week,” which comes off as, maybe more than they intended, a challenge and a threat. Less “come by whenever!” and more “name the time and date, pussy.”

Indeed, its that exact, unending porch-light-is-on mentality that most point to when explaining why Waffle House is so beloved despite offering a nonzero risk of stab wounds. Its hard to imagine exactly what someone would have to do to get turned away from a Waffle House, for better or for worse. It would probably top a Family Feud board of “places you can eat without having to explain the blood on your clothes.” Waffle House isnt a convenience, its an inevitability, so much so that the status of its menu is used as an index for the severity of a disaster. Its a tired canary manning a flat-top grill at the bottom of the coal mine. If, upon death, you were to realize the underworld did in fact exist, it wouldnt surprise anyone if you awaited judgment in a Waffle House.

The New York Times has written about what feels like an unusual appetite for violence and foul play at the restaurants. In the article, they reached out to a company spokeswoman named, hilariously, Kelly Thrasher, who says, “It's not that more of these stories happen at Waffle Houses. Its just getting more attention when it happens at a Waffle House.” 

Sure thing, lady who sounds like an unlockable Streets of Rage character. I dont see any rumors cropping up that 24-hour McDonalds don't have locks installed whatsoever.

I think the truth here, one that Waffle House quietly acknowledges with the humility befitting their reputation, is that this is a burden theyve come to terms with bearing. They are a great, Southern sin-eater equipped with Formica tabletops, willing to bear the chaos that comes with actually carrying through on a promise of unyielding availability. A syrup-and-blood drenched Atlas, bearing a world in which everyones protective bubble is popped on entry. 

Waffle House isnt chaotic and violent. Humans are, and Waffle House simply removes their shackles.

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