“Can I get a grilled cheese plate on two — scattered, smothered!”
Don’t tell my wife, but this past week I took my kids out to eat at the same place three of the five days she was out of town visiting her best friend in Montana.
I asked my 4-year-old what he wanted and he said, “Let’s go waffle crazy!” So we did. And that’s when I got the idea to ask the Waffle House staff, during the course of three different location visits, “What makes Macon special and what do you do here for fun?”
Between the called orders, a small grease fire, and the croonings of the Everly Brothers and Patsy Cline in the background, staff members shared with me their insights on what makes Macon cool, hip, memorable and worth a few hours stop-off during a long interstate haul.
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When you think about the fact the Waffle House is open 24/7 every day of the year, you quickly realize that the 12 Macon locations interact with tens of thousands of regulars and visitors passing through our great town in search of a consistent culinary experience. You can always count on a hot cup of coffee, a smile from the wait staff, and an eclectic playlist on rotation when you cross their threshold.
The staff at the Waffle House are like your local bartenders. It’s where I go for that “Cheers feeling” — you know, “where everybody knows your name ... and they’re always glad you came.” They share stories, listen to your grumblings about work, comment on your song selection — and more often than your think are the default ambassadors of our town to the weary traveler.
My inquiries this past weekend revealed that the recommendations for “what to do in Macon” or “what makes Macon special” are as vast as the number of potential hash brown combinations. I was delighted to hear staff share their insights about Macon staples: “Bragg Jam is amazing”; “you’ve got to go the Indian mounds”; “the Big House is a must see.”
I was even more impressed with the conversations that highlighted emerging assets and treasures in renaissance. Comments like, “I’ve heard there is a pretty cool music history tour downtown (i.e. Rock Candy Tours)”; “Amerson Park is a new thing, check it out”; and, “if you are looking for live music, you’ve got to check out the Cox, Roasted or the Hummingbird.”
You know me (lists and tips), I’ve got to conclude with some sort of recommendation. So here goes:
(1) If you want regulars and visitors to this town to know what’s amazing and drives you to gobble up an All-Star special at 2 a.m., talk to your server; they will help spread the word.
(2) Engage your server. Tip them a few extra bucks and ask them to make series of song selections on the jukebox and get to know them. Maybe they have a suggestion for you — something “off the menu” — in Macon that you should checkout.
Chris Tsavatewa is the director of experiential learning at Middle Georgia State University, and an overly engaged citizen. Follow him on Twitter @chiefchippy and criticize his grammar.