Food & Drink

Scattered & Smothered, Covered & Chunked, Too

How do you like your hashbrowns?

About thirty years ago, Waffle House owners in the Atlanta area noticed their cooks dipping into extra toppings on orders of hashbrowns they made for themselves and friends. “They would dice up pieces of ham or add cheese,” says Jim Hosseini, executive vice president who was then managing a Waffle House in Georgia.

Although the Norcross, Georgia-based chain has been around since 1955, it wasn’t until the mid-80s that its hashbrown ordering lingo rolled out. For years, diners could only order them scattered on the grill and smothered with onions. But on February 9, 1984, menus at restaurants across the country debuted covered and chunked, the beginning of a timeline of new ingredients inspired by Waffle House chefs and customer demands. The order of ingredients listed on the menu reflects the order items were added—first it was cheese, then diced ham, and then tomatoes and jalapeños. “All of this grew organically in the restaurants by our cooks and our customers. There were no grand marketing plans that put it all in motion.”

“When we added chili, it was like a dam broke and everyone wanted it,” Hosseini says. “Then people in Texas started putting gravy on their hashbrowns. It wasn’t one or two units—it was as if someone walked into Texas and sent a secret memo saying ‘Go to the Waffle House and order gravy on your hashbrowns.”

“Scattered, Smothered, Covered, and Topped” hashbrowns.

And as for all the way? There are brave among us.

“I have seen people have a triple order of hashbrowns covered with everything you can imagine for breakfast,” Hosseini says. “And it’s not like I’ve seen it one time. I see it almost every weekend. I tell myself, ‘They’ll never finish that.’ And then they do.”

Tell us: How do you like your hashbrowns?