Opinion Columns & Blogs

Bestler | Anthony Bourdain learns what I’ve known all along about Waffle House

Anthony Bourdain films CNN's Parts Unknown in Miami, Florida on November 18, 2014.
Anthony Bourdain films CNN's Parts Unknown in Miami, Florida on November 18, 2014. TNS

Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown,” a show about cooking in various corners of the world, visited Charleston recently and was taken on a tour by Sean Brock, a down-home guy who is, in Bourdain’s words, “one of the most important chefs in the South, if not all of America.”

Brock owns “Husk,” a restaurant in Charleston’s historic district that specializes in Southern ingredients. He has won numerous awards, including the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southeast.

He was here to show Bourdain the best the Lowcountry has to offer, and one might expect they’d be visiting eateries for the elite.

So it was stunning, to say the least, that the first stop was, ta-da!, Waffle House.

Yes, you read that right.

Their first stop was Waffle House, which Brock called “the only choice for late-night eating.”

It didn’t take long to make a believer out of a skeptical Bourdain.

Before the night was over, Bourdain was calling Waffle House a “yellow beacon of hope inviting the hungry, the lost and the seriously hammered all across the South...It’s what makes America great.”

He waxed eloquent again when he said “everybody, regardless of creed, color or degree of inebriation, is welcome.”

When he called Waffle House “a magical, spiritual place,” Brock corrected him: “It’s beyond magical and spiritual.”

Brock said he began visiting Waffle House when he first became interested in cooking.

“It was the only place I could go and actually watch people cook,” he said. “It helped me fall in love with cooking.”

After trying the eggs and waffles and a burger melt, they both ordered pork chops.

Brock, always the down-homer, drenched his in Heinz 57, calling it “one of the more complex sauces in America.” That was a bit much for Bourdain; instead, he dipped his pork chop in egg yolk -- and I’m sure “Parts Unknown” viewers were suddenly asking, “Who are these guys?”

A few years ago, I took a little flak when I came out in a column and said my bride and I were closet fans of Waffle House.

We still stop there often when traveling, primarily for a breakfast of cheesy eggs and hashbrowns and onions.

We’ve never tried the pork chops, but it could happen some day. Maybe drenched in Heinz 57. If it’s good enough for one of Americas finest chefs, it’s good enough for me.

Contact Bob Bestler at bestler6@tds.net.