Hart: Waffle House is a great American institution even if it's getting bad press of late

Waffle House employee Krista West replaces silverware Wednesday, April 25, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. The restaurant re-opened Wednesday after four people were killed by a gunman Sunday. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The great Southern tradition, Waffle House, has had its share of controversy lately. The well-run restaurants that are open 24/7/365 are a staple of college kids' late-night, post-party drunk dining.

In fact, in the South you are not officially considered grown up until you decide to eat at a Waffle House stone cold sober.

photo Ron Hart

Some of my friends and I got thrown out of a Pensacola Waffle House after Walker threw one of the 8-pound ashtrays at Bill. There is no lower honor or exhilarating moment than to be asked to leave a Waffle House moments before the police arrive.

If the ashtrays don't get you, the fried food will. Waffle House food has probably killed more Southerners than the Union Army, the lottery and three-wheelers combined. But it is good, quick and consistent food we all love.

If you ask for a table with a view at Waffle House, they seat you at the first booth near the swinging doors for the women's bathroom.

Southerners will consume just about anything that "eats good." There was even a rash of leprosy down here when some idiots started eating armadillos. Apparently, great food is worth the risk. It generally takes at least two rednecks to eat an armadillo: one to eat and one to watch for cars.

So when this nut job punk - from Illinois, of course - shot up a Waffle House near my hometown in Tennessee, I took it personally. (Tennessee is called The Volunteer State because no one can make you live there.)

Local James Shaw Jr., the courageous patron who charged and chased out the deranged shooter, was a real hero.

That shows the lengths Southerners will go to to protect their Waffle House.

The left wants to ban guns again after this. As with the Parkland, Fla., school shooter, there were obvious and troubling signs.

The Tennessee Waffle House shooter, too, had had many run-ins with the law. The Secret Service took his guns away, but then they gave them to his dad - who gave the guns right back to him.

What? Our many gun laws don't work on the honor system?

This demented kid wore a dress, thought Taylor Swift wanted him and could handle a gun. He didn't think laws applied to him. He was deluded by self-aggrandizing stories of his own personal integrity.

Folks, this guy has "FBI director" written all over him.

Recent infamous Waffle House stories abound. In Florida, a very intoxicated and naked woman drove her car into a Waffle House. Keep in mind, Florida is the swing state that determines our president.

In Atlanta, a meth-smoking clown was arrested in a Waffle House. If convicted, he could get four to eight years as the mayor of Atlanta.

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The owner of Waffle House is a connected, hard-nosed Georgia businessman whom I've always liked. He got himself in a pickle when his maid videotaped the naked massages she was giving him and tried to get some money from him through some lawyers. We think of it as extortion, but lawyers call it their business model. Judges let their brother lawyers off on extortion charges, of course, but they let the businessman go after his poor maid on a home-cooked and broad interpretation of a Byzantine outlier "eavesdropping" law in Georgia.

Instead of settling the case, he went to trial and was eviscerated. Lawyers, district attorneys, private detectives and an FBI agent all testified that it was legal to record the encounters. The theory of the prosecutor was that this private tape deprived him of "dignity." So then they played his sex tape in open court.

He sounded smothered and was clearly not covered. The maid got off.

He's also a big Republican donor. He even named a dish at Waffle House after the Clinton and Obama legacies: toast.

"Waffle House cooks have wonderful memories," notes a framed 1992 column in the Waffle House Museum by my friend, Southern-fried author Lewis Grizzard. "They can be frying six eggs, four pieces of bacon and have two waffles in the iron at the same time and listen to three waitresses yelling out orders and it all registers and they rarely get an order wrong." He went on to say, "There ought to be a lot of ex-Waffle House cooks in Congress. Maybe they wouldn't forget what the voters elected them to do."

Contact Ron Hart at Ron@RonaldHart.com or @RonaldHart on Twitter.