[Editor's note: This story has been updated for 2016.]
There’s been no shortage of cynical, or at least bewildered, responses to an annual press release about Waffle House’s annual Candlelight Valentine’s Dinner. It sounds preposterous, and it is – on purpose. Turns out, the Atlanta-based waffle-slingin’ chain, founded by these adorable fella-friends in 1955, is a little more self-aware than you might expect.
Local division manager Karen Whiting told us the whole thing started as a parody that she says, laughing, has "spun completely out of control."
"We started as just sort of a spoof of the big restaurants where you might spend $500 for one meal where, at ours, you can do it all -- the white linens, dimmed lights, candles -- for $20," she added.
The idea has been going on for nine years nationally, but Whiting said select North Texas locations have been doing it for about three or four.
“Our regular customers, the ones who come in two, three times a week, were going to be here anyway, so we made it a little fun for them. They’re the ones who really love it,” she said.
In past years, the restaurants she’s over would close off half of their dining rooms for Valentine’s Day, but it grew so big, they began closing off the entire space from 6 to 9 p.m. on Feb. 14.
Last year, Whiting said her locations had “absolutely” been getting calls for reservations all week prior to the big day.
In addition to the regular menu, they offer a shared menu with specials like T-bones for two. They dress employees in tuxes, provide sparkling cider and champagne glasses for a toast, and bring Hershey’s kisses with the check. In 2013, the Terrell location even brought in an Elvis impersonator to serenade the guests.
"He was a huge hit, so funny," Whiting said. "We just like spoofing all the cliches, which provides a lot of fun for our customers."
With Valentine's Day nigh, some of us will drop major coin to impress our object of affection. When there’s a laid-back, low-stress option that’s as much of a kitschy, cheesy high as you got anonymously slipping the “I Choo-Choo-Choose You” card into that one particular construction paper desktop mailbox in second grade, you gotta wonder: Maybe the joke’s on us.
One thing that's not a joke? Reservations are required. Here's a list of all participating locations, including ones in Dallas, Denton and Garland.