Waffle House of America – Lawrence
Since we moved to Mid-Michigan two years ago, I’ve wanted to stop at a little family restaurant just off I-94 in Van Buren County. The name is somewhat familiar, but it’s not part of the popular southern chain. That’s not what drew me in though. What drew me to this restaurant was the restroom.
A few years ago, I saw a story on the best restrooms in the country. At number five on that list was the women’s restroom at the Waffle House of America in Lawrence. Sure, I couldn’t actually go in, but if someone is going to take the time to paint a restroom and put that much effort into making it one of the best, surely they must put the same love and effort into the food.
The Waffle House of America is visible from I-94 just outside of Lawrence. When you get off the highway, the restaurant is directly across the street. The road actually splits in to two turn lanes, but if your ok willing to taunt the law, you could pull straight across the street into the parking lot.
The building is actually an old Horne’s. Not much remains of that chain except a few independent restaurants that still bear the name and a bunch of old buildings. The Lawrence location still looks like the old chain, still has the pad where the gas pumps used to be, and, the most defining feature, the yellow A-Frame roof.
Once again, J and I were headed to Chicago for a long weekend. We left when she got off work at noon and usually by the time we hit Paw Paw, she asks to stop for lunch. This time, I was the one asking. She saw the sign about the time I asked and knew what I wanted to do. She was on board, so we pulled off at Exit 52 and pulled in for lunch.
The store is a gift shop and a restaurant. I heard a waitress telling another table that the entire dining room has recently been renovated, but it still has the feeling of a roadside diner. It’s small, it’s comfortable and it has a train riding around the ceiling of the whole building. Yes, really. A G-Scale Train that chugs around on a track above your head while you eat.
We were shown to a booth in the non-smoking section along the wall. there’s a lunch counter right in the middle of the room, but it’s a little different from what you’d expect. It used to be the “Circus Grille” when it was Horne’s. It was brightly painted and had a soda fountain as well as counter service. There is still seating at a bar, but inside that bar is a buffet where the waitresses used to pour coffee and shoot the bull with the locals stopping in for their morning coffee.
There was a lunch buffet going on that included wings and fries, but we both decided to order of the menu. We started with Coke’s then I went for lunch while J took advantage of their all day breakfast.
I ordered the Original Belt Buster burger with cheese. The burger is a 1/2 lb fresh patty that is broiled and served on a toasted bun. Cheese and bacon are extra, so I just went with cheese. The sandwich is served with chips, but I upgraded to fries. The burger was quite delicious. It was a fresh patty which makes all the difference. It was cooked more to a medium-well, but it was still pretty juicy. It wasn’t a hockey puck like most diner burgers. It is served on a toasted sesame seed bun with the usual condiments on the side. The fries were typical restaurant fries, but they were slightly battered and cooked to a crispy state. As far as diner burgers goes, this one is far above average. A little bit pinker burger would have been perfect, but it was still really good.
J ordered the Bacon Waffle. She was leaning towards the Waffle a la Mode and an order of bacon, but changed her mind when she saw she could a bacon and a waffle in the same dish. She seemed surprised by the combination even though I made bacon waffles at home a few months ago. She said she’s never seen the combo in a restaurant and I’m not sure I ever had either. The waffle was huge and stuffed with bits of bacon. She added just a little butter and some syrup which made for a really great salty/sweet combo.
Our bill was just over $17. I was a little worried about stopping at a family restaurant right off the highway because the food is usually flat, but the Waffle House of America bucks that trend. The food was delicious and not what I was expecting. The name automatically points the brain towards the unrelated chain, but it shouldn’t. The Waffle House of America isn’t a typical roadside restaurant. While the menu main look typical, it’s anything but.
Oh, yeah..the restroom. Well, since it’s the women’s restroom, I couldn’t actually go in, but I told J she had to check it out for me whether she needed to or not. She came out with a full report and told me they even have a sign bragging about the distinction of being the fifth best restroom in American (2004).