Atlanta is home to many things that have shaped our zeitgeist: Crunk music, the 1996 Olympics, Dominique Wilkins, Outkast. But possibly the city’s greatest calling card of all is Waffle House, the 24-hour breakfast franchise that has become a staple for both families and after-party revelers. The first Waffle House opened in the Atlanta suburb of Avondale Estates in 1955. Sixty years later, thanks to its delicious waffles, combos, and breakfast sandwiches, Waffle House has turned into an empire. There are over 100 establishments in Atlanta alone, with many more dotting the terrain below the Mason-Dixon line.
A backdrop for rap-music videos, name checked in songs, and exalted by the likes of Stephen Colbert and Anthony Bourdain (who called it a better than eating at the white-table cloth restaurant, The French Laundry), Waffle House has inspired a cult-like following, making it an essential pit-stop for anyone who wants to understand the South. And while that aura has only grown thanks to cameos from Kanye, people truly love it for its democratic values: a diner-style, all-day breakfast that’s inexpensive and offers a menu full of joyous calories. That promise is perfect for families taking road trips, and optimal for the bleary-eyed traveler between the hours of 2am and 5am. And while it’s true that Waffle Houses offer the same comfort food across the country, there’s something especially magical about dining at one in its birthplace: in Atlanta, it’s seen as a part-diner, part-club. Imagine a speakeasy that serves coffee and biscuits instead of rum and peanuts.
To help parse out its legendary status and understand what draws people from all walks of life to enter its flouresecent-lit dining room, we looked to its menu and highlighted the 15 best dishes you can find at Waffle House—from classic breakfast combos, to lunch and late-night off-the-radar gems. Keep this guide handy next time you’re on your way home from Magic City and looking for something more satisfying than Young Jeezy’s wads of cash raining down on you.