Most of the time, if two people are on a date at Waffle House, it’s because they’re hungover and they’re continuing a date they had last night. But every Valentine’s Day, hundreds of Waffle House locations convert from no-frills breakfast joints into faux-fancy establishments where non-hungover couples might want to go on dates. Because cutesy internet stuff isn’t just for Denny’s these days, this year’s Waffle House Valentine’s Day celebration was dubbed “BAE”––short for “Bacon And Eggs.” 

Between the highly suspect name and the fact that I have been conditioned to distrust gigantic chains such as Waffle House, Walmart, and “the police,” I assumed that Waffle House’s Valentine’s Day extravaganza was going to be a lifeless disaster. But by the end of the night, I realized I was a dick because despite my presumptions, the only way I can think to describe the evening involves using the words cute and sweet with a completely straight face. There was an employee standing at the door, ticking names off a reservation list. There were disposable table cloths on every table, along with flowers and little fake candles with paper rose petals in them. Many people were dressed up, including the staff. Most of the couples were extremely excited to talk to me––they knew they were doing something absurd, and talking to a reporter wandering around the restaurant only added to the air of amiable absurdity.

Eventually, the assistant manager came up to me and reluctantly said, “They told me I have to kick you out. I tried holding my boss off as long as he could, but he says you have to go.” Which, fair enough. I did show up to a Waffle House alone on Valentine’s Day and start waving a recorder in people’s faces, so I probably deserved to get kicked out.

Thank you, Waffle House, for restoring my faith in the power of love.

Lucas and Emma 

Extra Crispy: How’d you end up at Waffle House on Valentine’s Day?
Lucas: I didn’t really decide. It was Emma’s turn to plan our Valentine’s Day date.
Emma: One of our first dates was at Waffle House––we dressed up really nicely. I found out they were doing a Valentine’s Day special and thought, ‘Perfect!’

How long have you been dating?
Lucas: We actually got married in March. We’ve been together six years, I think.

How far did you come to get here?
Emma: Like, 20 minutes.

How old are you?
Lucas: 26 and 25.
Emma: 24!
Lucas: Oh yeah, you’re right. 

Daniel and Alex

Extra Crispy: Where are you from?
Daniel: We’re Texans originally.

How’d you get here? "Here" being both North Carolina and this Waffle House.
Daniel: I’m a student at Duke Divinity school, studying to be a pastor. We moved out here about two and a half years ago. As for Waffle House… Alex, my wife––my lovely, wonderful wife––said that she had a surprise for me for Valentine’s Day. She’s known of my love for the Waffle House for a really long time. She’s not as big of a fan.
Alex: Breakfast food, sure. But this wouldn’t be my first choice of a breakfast place. It has good bacon and eggs, though.
Daniel: Waffle House is one through ten for me on my list of breakfast places. Alex told me we were going out to eat tonight but didn’t tell me where we were going. She made me put my head down in the car so I wouldn’t see.
Alex: He would have seen all the signs!

Is this normally what you get?
Daniel: Yes! I have a usual, and this is my usual. It’s a chocolate-covered waffle. It’s part of the All Star breakfast, which I get with over-easy eggs, hash browns with cheese and ham, bacon, and a waffle with chocolate chips. My hope is to one day have a Waffle House close enough to our home that I can walk in and ask for “the usual” and be given this.

Maybe you could open the first combination church and Waffle House.
Daniel: Attendance would be HUGE! I bet there’s more people at Waffle Houses than there are at churches on Sunday mornings.

Do churches ever experiment with food during the service?
Daniel: There’s a church in Durham that has a Starbucks. There’s a full menu. We were actually just visiting the church and we were late because we were waiting in line for Frappuccinos at Starbucks. 

Skyler and Becky

Extra Crispy: How long have y’all been together?
Becky: Three months?
Skyler: Three months.

How did you settle on coming here?
Becky: You heard about it from a friend who had gone before, right?
Skyler: Yeah! My friend went last year and I thought it was hilarious. It sounded like a lot of fun.
Becky: I called and made a reservation, and now we’re here!

What are you guys gonna order?
Becky: I have no idea yet. I heard they had heart-shaped waffles, but I don’t know if that’s true.

I’ve been looking around, I don’t think I’ve seen any heart-shaped waffles.
Becky: That’s OK. I’m still really hungry.

Trevor and Dorothea

Extra Crispy: How’d you end up at Waffle House?
Dorothea: It’s always Trevor’s joke whenever we go climbing to stop at a Waffle House on the way back, and I always refuse to go. So then I surprised him and made a reservation for tonight.

How did you conceal the surprise?
Trevor: She told me not to look at the GPS. 

What did y’all get?
Trevor: I got the All-Star Breakfast. And she got a bacon, egg and cheese melt. Or something.

How long have y’all been together?
Dorothea: A little under a year. This beats last Valentine’s Day, when we were awkwardly seated at a bar and the bartender was like, “Do you guys wanna sit next to each other or across from each other? I have to ask on a day like this, it’s weird.” We were like, ‘Who sits next to each other?”

Were you dating at the time?
Dorothea: Uh… it was a process.

Caroline and Alan

Extra Crispy: How’d you decide on going to Waffle House for Valentine’s Day?
Caroline: We’d heard about it last year, but we didn’t go. We’re both not big Valentine’s Day people, so this seemed perfect––a little quirky and unexpected.
Alan: And we love Waffle House.

Of course.
Alan: If you go late at night or early in the morning, it’s like dinner and a show. There’s always interesting people here.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen at Waffle House?
Alan: I just remember, one of my first late-night Waffle House experiences was in college. I was in Dallas, and we were at the counter. You know how people at the Waffle House have the nametags that say, “Serving since…” and there’s a year? Our waitress had been serving since 1976, which was when I was born. She was an old lady, but she was cool. She was having fun. 

How long have you been together?
Alan: Four and a half years.
Caroline: We’ve been married almost two years.

How does this compare to your other Valentine’s Days together?
Caroline: It’s perfect for where we’re at now––pregnant and comfortable. No wine this year, no fanciness. We’re just relaxing and having a good time.

Nicole and Matt

Extra Crispy: How’d you end up at Waffle House?
Nicole: Bobby Bones was talking about it.

Who’s that?
Nicole: He’s a radio host on 93.9.
Matt: It’s a country station.

I’m out in Durham, and my country station is 94.7. What was he saying about it?
Nicole: He was saying he was gonna take his girlfriend to Waffle House. I didn’t know that they did this until I heard that.

Are y’all Waffle House people normally?
Matt: Occasionally.

What did you order?
Nicole: I got a cheeseburger.
Matt: I got the breakfast special––you get a bit of everything.

How long have you been together?
Matt: About two years, officially.

How has this compared to your past Valentine’s Days?
Matt: I’d say pretty good, because I can’t remember what we did last year.

Eleanor and Rob

Extra Crispy: How’d you end up at Waffle House tonight?
Rob: She heard about it.
Eleanor: Well, I’d always heard rumors that Waffle House did a Valentine’s Day thing. I finally got around to googling it, and we called and made a reservation.

What’d y’all order?
Rob: All-Star Special! Of course.
Eleanor: And the hash brown bowl. But we’re gonna share––of course. And the chocolate-chip waffles. They’re obviously better than the regular waffles.

They’re sweet, just like your love.
Eleanor: Exactly.

How long have you been together?
Eleanor: Two years.

How does this compare to your previous Valentine’s Days?
Rob: What’d we do last year?
Eleanor: We cooked. Did we cook the year before, too?
Rob: Yeah. But you can’t beat Waffle House.
Eleanor: And it’s the same price as cooking.

Do you two go to college?
Rob: We go to NC State. We’re both seniors.
Eleanor: Hell yeah.

Do you know what you’re doing when you graduate?
Rob: I don’t.
Eleanor: I’m going to medical school.

Nicki, Nathan, Jolynn, Sean, and Britt

Nicki: Talk to me, my husband’s not much of a talker.

Extra Crispy: How’d your family end up at Waffle House tonight?
My husband surprised us with reservations! 

Are you a family of Waffle House enthusiasts?
I don’t know about enthusiasts, but we enjoy Waffle House.

Where are y’all from?
Clayton.

I was talking to some other people from Clayton, over at the other end of the restaurant.
Oh wow! They weren’t doing this at the Waffle House over there. 

What’d everybody get?
Waffles and All-Stars. I got the BLT.

What do y’all usually do for Valentine’s Day?
We always try to include the kids. This is something fun for them.