BREAKING NEWS: CNN food critic and world traveler Anthony Bourdain has never eaten at a Waffle House.
Credit: George Mathis
Credit: George Mathis
CNN's "Parts Unknown" host has made a career out of visiting some of the world's most eccentric locales and eating whatever the local populace will put on a plate, stick or shingle.
The worst thing he's ever eaten? Fermented shark in Iceland, which somehow beat out maggot fried rice and raw seal eyes.
The best? Could it be a pecan waffle from Waffle House?
Bourdain visited a South Carolina Waffle House recently with Southern Chef Sean Brock, who said he has visited the roadside eatery since he was a young because he enjoys watching food being prepared.
Brock, from Charleston, apparently has the two-sided menu implanted in his DNA and instructs the man who has tasted everything to get a pecan waffle. He then shows him how to slather a butter-like substance into every waffle grid and soak it in syrup.
Bourdain's review? He says Waffle House is "indeed marvelous" but seems as captivated by the late-night lunacy as the food.
In the opening of the video, the famous chef (and imbiber of adult beverages) offers up high praise, calling the familiar diner a "yellow beacon of hope" for the "seriously hammered."
Customers of all races, creeds and "degrees of inebriation" seem welcome, he says. "It never closes" and "is always there for you."
Waffle House not only has delicious grub, but it's a "place of safety and nourishment" for all, says Bourdain, who may have been consuming something fermented other than Icelandic shark while putting this piece together.
"That's good," exclaims Bourdain as he stuffs waffle in his face.
Brock, in referencing a famous French restaurant in California, says "You don't come here expecting The French Laundry" ... "you expect something amazing."
"This is better than The French Laundry," says Bourdain, who may have trouble getting a reservation the next time he is in Napa.
But, with 2,100 Waffle Houses in the U.S., he probably won't go hungry.
As you probably know, the Gwinnett-based chain got its start in the narrow strip of unincorporated land betwixt Avondale Estates and Decatur. There's a museum at the original location, but you can eat all the waffles you want a couple of blocks away at store #1000.
If you go, Brock, who recently opened Minero in Atlanta's Ponce City Market, also suggests the hash browns, but the chef offers a warning.
"You can’t go all in," he says. "There’s a balance. And when you find your balance, you memorize it. I go scattered, covered, smothered, chunks."
Good advice, but anything without seal eyes or maggots is bound to taste good at 2 a.m.
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Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution