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October 31, 2013 2:07 PM   Subscribe

The end of the Waffle House: Regulars say goodbye to Bloomington, Indiana's second oldest restaurant. Bud Powell and his wife Myra opened the restaurant, one of the first Waffle House franchises in the country, on Oct. 10, 1967.... The legends showed up from time to time — Bobby Knight, Woody Hayes — but it was the regulars who received special treatment. Everybody knew everybody. Senior night was Tuesday. You could bring your girlfriend, your kids, your mother-in-law — everyone was family.
posted by Cash4Lead (35 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by ardgedee at 2:26 PM on October 31, 2013


What a moving piece.
posted by deezil at 2:34 PM on October 31, 2013


Wonderful writing.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 2:35 PM on October 31, 2013


I got a discount on my check at a waffle house in WV once because there was a fist fight in the place.

Blood from someone's nose literally went in my omelet.

The discount was only 10%, though.
posted by poe at 2:39 PM on October 31, 2013 [15 favorites]


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posted by oceanjesse at 2:42 PM on October 31, 2013


.

I love Waffle House so much, and this breaks my heart. What a moving story. Thank you for posting this.
posted by bibliogrrl at 2:45 PM on October 31, 2013


I had no idea there was still an actual Waffle House left in Indiana. I thought they had all been bought-up by the Sunshine Cafe chain.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:45 PM on October 31, 2013


Hmm, I seem to have gotten syrup, or something, in my eye.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 2:54 PM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


A little regional trivia for those who haven't spent much time in, or don't have family from, the Midwest.

"Bud" is the traditional nickname given to the oldest son of the family, at least in the part of Indiana where my parents grew up. I have Uncle Buds on both my mom's and dad's sides of the family. My dad had an Uncle Bud too; he only had 8 fingers. (My dad also had an Uncle Bus, his Uncle Bud's brother, which is an entirely different story.) I have a cousin Bud, the oldest cousin on my dad's side of the family. My parents' friends from high school (class of '59) -- they're Fran and Bud. My dad -- he's a Bud too. And, one of his sisters married a Bud, which is why I have both a Dad Bud and an Uncle Bud in my patrilineal line.

So there you have it. There's a little bit about Buds in Indiana. The name may seem quaint, but there's a reason it's given.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:56 PM on October 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is what happens when your campus has one of the best journalism schools in the country - you get lovingly crafted stories about fast food franchises.

AH, but this story has it all for me - my alma matter, my looming discovery of southern culture where it just hits the fringe of the midwest and pulled me down into it, and my fast-developing discovery in early middle age that, no, most change is mildly disturbing if inevitable
posted by C.A.S. at 3:02 PM on October 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


For those of you who haven't visited Bloomington, this has nothing to do with the Waffle House chain (yellow sign, common on Interstate highways). The sign out front of the Bloomington Waffle House read "Waffle House of Indiana" to distinguish it from the better-known establishments.

It was pretty good, though a lot of its appeal was that it was open all night long. If you want a greasy spoon breakfast during actual breakfast hours, you go to Wee Willie's. (That one has no sign at all.)
posted by asperity at 3:07 PM on October 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


I had breakfast there just once, despite spending 4 years in Bloomington; the morning after I broke up with my college boyfriend. I loved him terribly, but had met someone else who seemed everything he wasn't. So I made a long-distance phone call and spent hours, many more than I should have, saying the same things over and over, "I'm sorry," and "I know," and "I can't." When the call was over, I laid on the floor by the phone. I think I fell asleep. Eventually, I watched the sky get light. I got up, washed my face, and went to the Waffle House. I remember thinking that it would be comforting.

It was.

(Side note: Proud and unsurprised that this story is in the IDS. Editorial board 1996!)
posted by minervous at 3:13 PM on October 31, 2013 [15 favorites]


For those of you who haven't visited Bloomington, this has nothing to do with the Waffle House chain (yellow sign, common on Interstate highways). The sign out front of the Bloomington Waffle House read "Waffle House of Indiana" to distinguish it from the better-known establishments.

I was about to ask. Because the other ones usually immediately rise from the dead as Huddle House as soon as they close up.
posted by radwolf76 at 3:14 PM on October 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


And 80% of the menu items become grits.
posted by Wolfdog at 3:36 PM on October 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sad. I spent quite a few late nights/early mornings there studying or up to no good.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 3:38 PM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


The sign out front of the Bloomington Waffle House read "Waffle House of Indiana" to distinguish it from the better-known establishments.

Aah, that is good. Waffle Houses are very common here in Georgia, both Brunswick and Statesboro have two, and they all have a standardized, and fairly limited, menu. I should have suspected it wasn't the chain in the article when someone ordered a Reuben.
posted by JHarris at 4:01 PM on October 31, 2013


Without Dr. Leyda ever really noticing, his wife had begun filling up their children’s old bedrooms with newly bought items...Carole had never been a big shopper, and certainly not a hoarder.
“Dad,” said their daughter. “I think Mom is having problems.”
Carole was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.


Ohhhh, that one hurt. My grandmother did the same thing before her diagnosis, buying crap from the shopping channels and passing them on to us because she had no use for them. She died two, maybe three years ago now, and that paragraph just made me bawl. Excellent writing.
posted by librarylis at 4:36 PM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


The post does mention Bud claimed it to be one of the first franchises. I was somewhat frustrated that the article didn't specify the oldest place. I grew up in Bloomington and attended school there twenty-thirty years ago; it will always be home. That said, I never knew anybody named Bud, with the possible exception of Mr. Powell (who I did not know that I am aware of).

The loss of inexpensive open-early/open-late restaurants was an ongoing theme even thirty years ago. There was a place on the near west side that opened at 3am, Bruce's Cafe, that closed when I was 17. Our Place, closer to Elm Heights, closed in the 1980s. After I left, Ladyman's closed.

I wonder if the place across the street from South is still open, can't remember what it was called. One of the few places that served brains on toast, something I'm pretty sure was taken off the menu after the mad cow scare.
posted by mwhybark at 4:37 PM on October 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


I ate there once. Once.
posted by briank at 4:57 PM on October 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


I got a discount on my check at a waffle house in WV once because there was a fist fight in the place.

Blood from someone's nose literally went in my omelet.

The discount was only 10%, though.


From the first draft of A Clean Well-Lighted Place
posted by hal9k at 5:03 PM on October 31, 2013


You'd think that the new five-story apartment building could have a space on the ground floor for another restaurant, to make it the start of a new story instead of just the end of one. With all the new apartment buildings being built, and students moving in to the area, it sounds like it would do better than ever.
posted by alexei at 5:06 PM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]




I wonder if the place across the street from South is still open, can't remember what it was called.

That's Wee Willie's, though nowadays the thing to get is their biscuits and gravy. Given the lack of sign it's reasonable not to remember what it's called!

You'd think that the new five-story apartment building could have a space on the ground floor for another restaurant

Yeah, it's disappointing that it's yet another bank as ground floor tenant, not anything interesting. The ground-floor-of-new-apartment-complex businesses a block or two away don't seem to have much luck with the location, though, so maybe they'll get some more traffic with more residents in the area. One of the restaurant spots that's more or less within line of sight of the hole in the ground where Waffle House was has changed hands at least three times in the last four years.
posted by asperity at 5:58 PM on October 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Saw Douglas Hofstadter there once.

Runcible Spoon was a better breakfast option, but Waffle House wasn't bad at all.
posted by wires at 6:01 PM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by frodisaur at 6:15 PM on October 31, 2013


Long live mad mushroom and those god damn awesome cheese stix. Always bet on ranch. Always.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:23 PM on October 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was somewhat frustrated that the article didn't specify the oldest place.

The article says Nick's English Hut.
posted by Jacob G at 7:05 PM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I could tell that wasn't a "real " Waffle House by two details: first, the menu items and second?

Waffle House is open on Christmas.

On the other hand, lots of Waffle Houses could tell similar stories about regulars. When my husband managed one we had lots of regulars to include a retired rocket scientist. Oh, Smiley, I wonder how you are, dude.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:21 PM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


mudpuppie: "A little regional trivia for those who haven't spent much time in, or don't have family from, the Midwest.

"Bud" is the traditional nickname given to the oldest son of the family, at least in the part of Indiana where my parents grew up. I have Uncle Buds on both my mom's and dad's sides of the family. My dad had an Uncle Bud too; he only had 8 fingers. (My dad also had an Uncle Bus, his Uncle Bud's brother, which is an entirely different story.) I have a cousin Bud, the oldest cousin on my dad's side of the family. My parents' friends from high school (class of '59) -- they're Fran and Bud. My dad -- he's a Bud too. And, one of his sisters married a Bud, which is why I have both a Dad Bud and an Uncle Bud in my patrilineal line.

So there you have it. There's a little bit about Buds in Indiana. The name may seem quaint, but there's a reason it's given.
"

What part of Indiana? I've never heard of this and I've lived here for the last 30 years. (I've lived in Da Region, LaPorte/South Bend/Elkhart and now in Indianapolis-almost-Greenwood.)
posted by double block and bleed at 7:46 PM on October 31, 2013


stopped eating there years ago. close friend who lives near the owner had some pretty disturbing comments about his racism. but hey, old dude in s. IN. go figure.
posted by alabamnicon at 10:40 PM on October 31, 2013


Runcible Spoon was a better breakfast option, but Waffle House wasn't bad at all.

Still open, I gather, but under new ownership. Former place of employment.

"I was somewhat frustrated that the article didn't specify the oldest place."

The article says Nick's English Hut.


My bad, I scanned the article earlier in the week and did not note that as a fact presented. My impression of the piece was that it was great on human detail but maybe light on going to the courthouse and looking stuff up, which is cool. We're all busy and god knows I wouldn't verify stuff like that either if I was writing a feature like this. My impression is demonstrably wrong in at least one way and I appreciate the follow up.
posted by mwhybark at 10:50 PM on October 31, 2013


Wait, Ladyman's is closed? When did that happen?

I only went to Waffle House a couple times when I was at IU, but reading this piece made me wish I'd gone more often.

And Minervous: I was on the IDS editorial board in fall 1992! : )
posted by SisterHavana at 12:21 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


My grandparents, retired biology faculty at IU, were regulars there, and we would often go with them when we visited. It always seemed as though they knew everyone there, and the average age was around 80. I was in Bloomington two weeks ago for my grandmother's memorial service and was sad to see an empty space where it used to be and wondered what the story was.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 12:14 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait, Ladyman's is closed?

2006, it seems.
posted by mwhybark at 5:22 PM on November 1, 2013


...and, from that '06 link, the lede:

"Bob Martin and Homer "Bud" Lynch sit side by side at a table inside Ladyman's Cafe, talking, drinking coffee, but mostly watching the breakfast crowd come and go."

mudpuppie, I stand, if not corrected, surprised.
posted by mwhybark at 5:25 PM on November 1, 2013


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