Sunday, January 6, 2013

Save The Waffle Shop!

A recent Washington Post article about the possible demise of DC institution The Waffle Shop made the rounds yesterday and I felt compelled to comment and reminisce

Back in the 90′s I worked across the street from The Waffle Shop at Ford’s Theater. Early each morning I’d walk from my Chinatown apartment through the pre-MCI Center urban blight to open Ford’s gift-shop. Back in those days there wasn’t a lot of choice for breakfast along the way. In fact the neighborhood offered up a whole lot of nothing, a bunch of run-down abandoned buildings and a few wig shops. The area between Ford’s and Chinatown was pretty depressing in any light, but especially so in the early morning, pre-work gloom.

Each morning I made that walk ended with me rounding the corner of 10th and F to be greeted by the warm glow coming from The Waffle Shop. I gave The Waffle Shop a try my first week working at Ford’s and romanced by the atmosphere of the place I quickly became a regular at the old-school, breakfast diner.

To me The Waffle Shop was a place where the real, honest, working folk of DC went for a cup of coffee, a bite to eat, and a couple scratch-off lotto cards before a long day at work. It was an authentic place, its years of short-order grilling showing up on its walls and its battle-scarred waffle-irons. It was a place to share tables with strangers, to bullshit about the weather or politics, and to commiserate – “another day another dollar”. The Waffle Shop was an original, a place with an edge, earned through survival. Serving its loyal, clientele even as the neighborhood around it had long since declined. My breakfasts there always ended with either a good conversation, a wizened nod from an old-timer, or a smile from one of the waitresses laughing at that “crazy, white-boy from over at Ford’s”.

The late 90′s brought a whole lot of development to the area which brought a mixed bag of emotions. Seeing life pumped back into blocks of empty buildings was exhilarating at times. But also left me with reservations about the ultimate goal of the project. Like eras of urban renovation past, would this one become unchecked and rampant?

After reading about the possible closing of The Waffle Shop due to newly formed development plans for that block I am inclined to say that yes, development has become unbound. When we are forcing long-standing businesses to close in the name of yet another new office-block among pre-existing dozens we have moved beyond the downtown renovation project into the territory of developmental vulturing.

The Waffle Shop has been serving Washingtonians breakfast for more than 50 years through times both thick and thin. It is a place that has been through the ringer with loyal, long-time customers who now border on being family. While not as flashy, I equate The Waffle Shop to Ben’s Chili Bowl in the importance of both places to their customers and the living, breathing representation both places offer of local DC life over the years.

The Waffle Shop is a DC original that can’t be reproduced in the modern age. It is a museum thriving with life, a social mixing-bowl, and a great place to grab a quick breakfast (or a long one if you’ve got the gift of gab).

Make sure to swing by for a short-stack before this DC stand-out is long gone.

The Waffle Shop
522 10th St. NW

Originally published on December 12, 2006.

The Lincoln House down the street claims to be where The Waffle Shop on 10th St. NW moved after it closed. While Lincoln House is a great place for breakfast with a lot of character; it is just not the same as the original Waffle House.

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