IKEA vs. Waffle House: Waffle Warfare

It has been claimed that breakfast is the most important meal of the day (probably by the egg lobby), and I am not one to disagree. While most of us grew up on Cocoa Puffs and a variety of toaster pastry, it was the Sunday morning breakfast feast that I always looked forward to as a child.

With large mounds of bacon, heaps of steaming scrambled eggs, and a choice of pancakes or waffles, mom took pride in handling her children dutifully, feeding us like lumberjacks on Sunday. Not so much the rest of the week.

If we were lucky, we could saturate the waffles with warm cups of real maple syrup and spritz the pocked-fried bread with canisters of whipped cream, topping each with cherries or other available canned-pie filling.

For us, waffles were truly the food of the gods.

While the history of the waffle has taken a long and arduous journey, with dubious roots dating back to the Neolithic age when ground cereal pulp was seared into stones to form what might be construed as the modern day hotcake, its twisted journey took more shape in the 13th century when these griddled cakes were seared with metal plates donning coats of arms or religious symbols, and the modern telltale honeycomb design.

Contemporary variations can be found at most breakfast stops, carnivals and fairs, and even high-end restaurants playing into the newest national obsession of chicken and waffles. The waffle has certainly earned its place in our hearts and on the breakfast table, and today we pay homage to the breakfast bread in the Toque to Toque battle lovingly entitled IKEA vs. Waffle House: Waffle Warfare.

We realize that IKEA is a furniture store, but they also boast a vast dining room that rivals the seating capacity of some of the largest restaurants in Dallas. IKEA serves both breakfast and lunches cafeteria-style, replete with trays and a long rat-like maze of stanchions to guide the guest through the various offerings of the day.

IKEA is home to inexpensive, build-it-yourself Swedish furniture. Among the vast array of beds, sofas and coffee tables you will also find frozen bags of lingonberries and meatballs. Throughout the store you will see mention of the second-floor cafeteria, which boasts a 99-cent American breakfast, head-sized cinnamon rolls, sandwiches, and fruit for those that might otherwise find themselves unwittingly trapped in the mega-complex.

As I ambled my way through the long line of hungry early morning shoppers, all fighting for survival and the last cinnamon roll, I made my selection and grabbed a plate that contained a large, thick Belgian waffle. There was a service bar available that contained various accoutrements for the waffle, including several fruit compotes. I chose a blueberry and slapped a loving spoonful onto the center of my pastry.

After pouring myself a cup of coffee, I found a table as far away from the center of the room where a blaring generic cartoon was being played with record volume that would put Black Sabbath to shame. I cut into my waffle and immediately pronounced it inedible. I might have been served one of the preserved waffles used for display only. Or not. Either way, I was finished before I got started.

I found my car and abandoned Frisco for a Waffle House.

Truth is, I have never been to a Waffle House totally sober or during the day. I found a Waffle House not too far off the path from IKEA off 121 in Carrollton. It was mid-morning but the restaurant was still filled to capacity, and there remained a single seat at the bar. I bellied up and found a bounty of waffles listed on the plastic placemat provided. I ordered a cup of coffee, a single fried egg and the waffle.

While waiting for my breakfast, I moseyed about the restaurant and found the jukebox. Turns out, Waffle House has a place in pop culture, with several songs recorded by Mary Welch Rogers who extols the virtues of the waffles and their now famous hash browns that can be "scattered" (spread on the grill), "smothered" (with onions), "covered" (with cheese), "chunked" (with diced ham), "diced" (with diced tomatoes), "peppered" (with jalapeño peppers), "capped" (with mushrooms), "topped" (with chili) and "all the way" (with all available toppings). I do not recommend playing these tunes early morning with a house full of sleepy truck drivers.

Soon my food arrived, and I was presented with a utilitarian look at waffles. The only garnish on the stark white plate was that of an ample sized tub of margarine. A decanter of syrup was provided on the side, and minutes later my egg made its appearance.

I smeared, splattered and topped the waffle with my egg. That's just how I roll. I made haste with the waffle and shoved a large chunk of the eggy bread into my mouth and smiled. Crisp, sweet and easy on the choppers.

Definitely not the finest example of waffles in our fair city, but sometimes it's not about the best, but the available. When you're shopping bunk-beds and feel the need for a quick breakfast, you run with it. When you're traveling life's highways and desire to dine with road warriors, you know what to do.

For this week's edition of the Toque challenge and the bragging rights that belong to the victor of City of Ate's Waffle Warrior, we pronounce Waffle House king for their crisp made-to-order version that is edible and doesn't require meandering acres of sofas to enjoy.

7171 IKEA Drive, Frisco

Waffle House
1613 W. Hebron, Carrollton

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Steven Doyle