From the outside, the building on East College Avenue looks nearly the same as any other Waffle House. The logo features a dripping syrup-inspired font instead of the classic block letters, but the yellow and black sign is immediately recognizable.
Step inside though and you’ll notice some differences, mainly the lack of booth seating. A few benches are placed against the wall, meant for customers who stopped by just to drink coffee. The other feature you won’t find in today’s Waffle Houses is the commissary space in the back: In the earliest days, almost everything was made in-house, from strawberry jam to waffle batter.
The museum is housed in the same building where Waffle House founders Joe Rogers Sr. and Tom Forkner built their first restaurant. When traffic slowed after the construction of I-285, the location was shut down and the building was sold. It was a Chinese restaurant before being reacquired by Waffle House and restored to how it looked in 1955.
Since the museum opened in 2008, Waffle House fans have visited from across the country.
“People love to come and brag about their own Waffle House,” said Pat Warner, the company’s director of public relations and external affairs. “We’ve adapted the tagline that ‘it’s not a tour, it’s a pilgrimage.’”
Guests can book the museum for private events; it’s been the scene of high school reunions and even a rehearsal dinner. While the kitchen isn’t operational, visitors can still re-create an authentic Waffle House experience with a food truck or by ordering catering.
Museumgoers who are interested in more of the history and culture can visit the other half of the building, which houses Waffle House memorabilia. The walls are lined with shelves displaying special-edition pins, earlier versions of cutlery and uniforms, and a working jukebox.
Other than a life-size photo of the founders behind a restaurant counter, there are few pictures. Warner said that Rogers and Forkner never expected the restaurant chain to become so large, so they didn’t bother.
“They always say they thought they’d open 10 and then go fishing,” he said.
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