Review No. 50: Waffle House-Oak Street
816 E. Oak Street
27.8 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants
She Said: True-confession time: We have never eaten in a Waffle House in our lives. They are not the cultural icon in the Dakotas and the Midwest where we moved from that they are in the South. I never knew what they were and imagined a kind of grungy, fast-food breakfast restaurant where you order at the counter and probably carry your food home. There is a Waffle House less than a mile from us, so recently for Sunday breakfast, I decided we should try it.
He Said: I imagined something in the IHOP vein, but with waffles. I guess I wasn’t far off. I was a little worried about going to a kind of breakfast chain, fearing I may have some difficulty finding low-fat dietary options here. But as with most major chains, Waffle House does have an online nutrition chart that can be accessed, and I availed myself of this before we made our visit. They also list on the menu the calorie content of each of their entrees, which is mighty handy for those wanting a breakfast that’s not going to burst the seams.
She Said: This place is friendly and adorable! A hostess opened the door for us as we made our way in, smiling and welcoming us around 7:30 a.m. I was pleasantly surprised by the cuteness; it’s a friendly, little diner with red-leather chairs and counter stools, bright menus and big windows for much of the seating. In look and feel, it was perfect for a cheerful Sunday breakfast. As we sat, I noticed that the cooks are right opposite the counter with no dividing wall; if you want you can watch them make everything, and you can hear the waitresses calling out the orders and the cooks confirming.
He Said: Jones is right, it’s surprisingly like a cute little diner in here. The seats are hard, which at my age is not conducive to long sitting, but we weren’t planning to linger over our orange juice, looking at one another longingly. We save that for Mexican restaurants.
She Said: It was breakfast, so I wanted coffee. I didn’t even look at what they had. I’m not a big juice drinker—the sweetness hits me too hard on an empty stomach—so I had a nice, big glass of water and coffee with cream. It was good and did the trick, though I usually like mine a little stronger (more like Starbucks’ coffee across the street), but this went well with my breakfast, and there was always plenty of it.
He Said: I don’t drink coffee. And I usually don’t have tea for breakfast. But I always have to have juice. I had an orange juice, which came in a pretty generous serving and was Minute Maid. So, it may not have been fresh squeezed, but you know exactly what you’re getting.
She Said: Well, I came here for a waffle, so it was just a question of which one! But, given my sugar sensitivities, mentioned above, I knew I needed something with protein on the side to help me manage that blood-sugar experience. I went for one of the highest calorie waffle options right away, the pecan waffle with peanut butter, and to save myself from an unpleasant sugar crash, I also asked for two eggs, over medium on the side. This particular waffle is listed on the menu at 680 calories (more than half my total calories for most days).
The waffle was the size of a medium plate and came with pecans in the waffle and peanut-butter chips melting on top. There’s a butter-flavored-food-product spread, which was nice because it was soft and easy to cover the waffle. And, of course, there was syrup, which I don’t usually eat (sugar). But, I used a little to get the full effect, but the peanut butter chips and butter were enough to make it tasty and delicious. I could only eat a little over half of the waffle; it was filling! I did finish off the eggs, which were perfectly cooked. Before we left, I was sensing that very familiar processed-food-and-sugar feeling coming on, and by the time we got home, I had to have a glass of milk to right my little blood-sugar ship. I liked that waffle a lot; maybe I’ll just have a bite of someone else’s next time instead of too much of my own.
He Said: On Waffle House’s online menu, they list egg-white omelets, and they also list a number of varieties of hash browns, including my favorite new discovery, steamed hash browns: they are not fried, and they have exactly zero grams of fat. Imagine my chagrin when neither of these appeared on the menu presented to us at our local Waffle House. I asked the server about the possibility of an egg-white omelet, and she was most accommodating. Bucked up by this, I also mentioned that I had seen steamed hash browns on the online menu, and she said she could get me those, too. She Said pointed out to me afterwards that the menu we were given had a note saying “full menu available upon request.” So you should know that when you come to Waffle House—take a look online and if you see something you like, you should be able to get it there!
The hash browns, as you might expect, were not really very crispy after steaming, but they were definitely hashed. They were tender and tasty, and completely nongreasy. It’s good to know that such a completely healthy option exists for those who love breakfast potatoes and have been warned to stay away from fried food. As for the egg-white omelet—also fat free—it was very nicely done and delicious. I had ordered it with onions, tomatoes, and green peppers (no cheese—again, lookng for the completely fat-free option here). Unfortunately, the omelet came with onions, tomatoes, and jalapeno peppers. That cleared my sinuses! I took out almost all of the jalapenos—I don’t know if the mistake was the server’s or the cook’s, but it was not a major deal to me so I didn’t send it back. It was a delicious and healthy breakfast all around.
She Said: The service was wonderful from when we approached the entry until we left. Our server was morning-appropriate: friendly, but not too loud or demanding. As He Said wrote, I didn’t realize until we’d ordered that our place-mats were not the full menu when we saw the note on them that we could see a full menu if we wanted. It’s not unusual in this experiment of eating in every Conway restaurant that we often find ourselves as newbies in places that have the strong cultures of repeat customers. I looked at the big menu online afterwards, and it wouldn’t have changed my choices, except, I would have chosen the dark blend coffee instead of the regular. My two eggs weren’t listed as an item on the small one, but I just asked for that because I wanted it. Maybe I should have been more observant, but it might also be helpful if they asked you when they seat you if you want the big menu.
He Said: I was very impressed by our server throughout. She was extremely accommodating and friendly, and I am sure that even if she did serve me jalapenos instead of green peppers, she would have changed the order with a smile if I had asked. I’m pretty sure she was a local college student, so I gave her a nice tip. Well, I mean, I would have given her a nice tip anyway, but I’m sure she could use the money. For books and things. Okay, I have a soft spot for students. Never mind.
What We Got and What We Paid: Pecan waffle with peanut butter, two fried eggs, egg-white omelet with veggies, wheat toast and steamed hash browns, coffee and orange juice for $15.34.
She Said: This was better food in a more pleasant environment than I expected, and I thought the food was tasty and the service was great. I imagine we’ll be stopping in here again in the future.
He Said: This was a surprisingly pleasant experience and I expect Waffle House will be seeing more of us.
So…He Said and She Said: Go here for an adorable, friendly neighborhood diner experience from a large, national chain.
Editor's Note: Eat It, Conway is produced by local author Jay Ruud and his wife (poet and novelist Stacey Margaret Jones). The couple has begun an attempt to eat at and review, every restaurant in Conway, Arkansas. The Log Cabin Democrat and thecabin.net are publishing Eat It, Conway with permission from the authors. Visit them online at jayruud.com and on Facebook at Eat It, Conway. In addition to restaurant reviews, Ruud authors movie reviews on the site.