Quest for the Best: No Waffling on this; West Egg it is

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West Egg’s waffle with spiced honey butter

Lucy Lombardo

By Lucy Lombardo
The story of Southern food is teeming with generations of visionary chefs who have spent their lives refining their craft. Though not as popular as fried chicken, waffles are an integral part of Southern culture. One only has to drive a few blocks before seeing the inevitable gold and black block letters of a Waffle House sign. Other restaurants, however, have popped up in the Grady area offering alternatives to the monopoly of the “waffle with every-way hash browns.”

In my journey to find the perfect waffle, I ventured first to the International House of Pancakes (428 Ponce De Leon Ave.). IHOP has branched out to include the pancake’s textured cousin. Unfortunately, the waffle options were slim, and I settled on the Berries N’ Cream waffle. In theory (and according to the menu), this dish came with a dollop of cool vanilla cream topped with blueberries and strawberries, but the reality on the plate was much less appetizing. While the waffle was fluffy, it relied on the over sweetness of the cream for its actual flavor. And the fresh fruit? The strawberries had definitely been frozen, and the blueberries were shriveled. For $6.99, I received an over-sized bland waffle with too much vanilla cream and too few berries. My verdict is that IHOP should stick to flapjacks and leave the waffles to the specialists.

Next, I ventured downtown to Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles (529 Peachtree St.) to sample their, you guessed it, chicken and waffles. I had never tried this Southern dish before and figured that heading to one of the definitively Southern restaurants in Atlanta would give me the best introduction. And I was right. My enormous waffle came with four fried chicken wings and syrup. I was only able to eat two of the wings, but the waffle really commanded my full attention. Although it wasn’t as fluffy as IHOP’s waffle, the flavor was spot on, especially when combined with the crunchiness of the wings and sweetness of the syrup. Even though I am not a chicken and waffles connoisseur, I recognized the thought and finesse required to create the complementary flavor profile I was tasting. The crispy chicken combined with the syrup created a great addition to the subtle waffle. Although the meal was $13.50, by far the most expensive of the waffles I tried, the chicken was a foreseen cost I was willing to pay to get such an iconic dish. This was a definite contender for the title of best waffle.

My third stop was the big daddy of them all, Waffle House (2264 Cheshire Bridge Road). I was there to find out if its waffles measured up to their lofty name and decided not to be influenced by their oily, yet delicious, hash browns. I ordered a spin on the classic: a chocolate chip waffle. This came in at only $3.20, the least expensive waffle in my search. I was worried the low price would negatively impact the flavor and, unfortunately, that concern was warranted. Although not as bad as IHOP’s, the WH waffle was too thin and the chocolate chips did not smother or even cover the waffle but rather were unevenly scattered over the top. While the flavor was not terrible, the actual restaurant left much to be desired. Before I was served my food, I had to change seats twice because of flies swarming around the table. The table was sticky, just like at IHOP, and the whole presentation of my food left much to be desired. The complementary flavor of the chocolate with the waffle was just enough for Waffle House to beat IHOP.

My fourth and final restaurant was West Egg Cafe (1100 Howell Mill Road). I had never heard of West Egg Cafe before visiting and was eagerly anticipating their waffle. West Egg not only serves a full, all-day breakfast, it also has a lunch and dinner menu along with dessert items. The atmosphere was charming; a table held games guests could play while waiting for their food. We played Jenga at our table outside. I ordered the signature (and only) waffle on the menu, a Belgian waffle with spiced honey butter. The price, $5, had me wondering how good it could actually be despite its reputation among my friends. I was wrong to ever have doubted them. With one look at the waffle, I knew it was in a league of its own. With a generous scoop of the spiced butter on top and a perfectly golden finish, this waffle is head and shoulders above the rest. The waffle was beautifully pressed with crispy edges and a soft center. It wasn’t too large, and there was more than enough butter to cover the entire waffle. The taste didn’t disappoint, with the butter really enhancing the flavor. The subtleness of the waffle’s flavors combined with the cinnamon-y taste and sweetness of the butter sealed the deal for me; I had saved the best for last.

For die-hard Waffle House fans, I strongly encourage you to branch out and try either Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles or West Egg’s waffle with spiced honey butter. For those on a budget, however, don’t make Gladys Knight’s your first stop. You can never go wrong with Waffle House, but acknowledging the better waffles out there is a step in the right direction.