Planning for that special Valentine's Day date got you a little scattered? Want your sweetie to know they're loved, but don't want them feeling smothered? Don't worry — Waffle House has you covered.
For the 12th year, some Waffle House restaurants — including four in Northwest Florida — are putting white tablecloths on their booths, dimming the lights, decorating with hearts and flowers, dressing their staff in ties and dresses and offering two-for-one meal deals for couples.
The tradition began in 2008 at a Waffle House in Johns Creek, Georgia. A group of customers dined there every Valentine's Day, so the manager decided to make the experience special. The trend has spread to Waffle Houses in 21 states.
Reservations are required — and are filling up fast — although diners whose Thursday hankerings are only for a serving of hash browns or a bowl of chili need not worry. Seats at the counter will remain available for them.
But for those in love, Valentine's Day dinner at the Waffle House will be extra special, according to CEO Walt Ehmer.
“It’s really a bucket-list experience,” Ehmer said in a news release.
Nearly 200 of the 1,900 Waffle House restaurants across the country are participating this year. Locally, the Waffle Houses at 4575 State Road 20 in Bluewater Bay, 3804 S. Ferdon Blvd. in Crestview, 6558 Caroline St. in Milton and 831 Gulf Breeze Parkway in Gulf Breeze are offering the special evening.
The participating Crestview Waffle House is now in its third year of celebrating Valentine's Day, said manager Kyrsten Mckeand.
"It has grown tremendously over the years," she said. As of Tuesday, there were some reservations available in Crestview between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., but slots for later in the evening — reservations can be made for as late as 9 p.m. — were going fast.
Decorations were already in place Tuesday in Crestview, where Valentine's Day diners will be treated to heart-shaped hash browns and a special dessert — red velvet cupcakes. Like some other Waffle Houses, the Crestview restaurant also will have live music, from North Okaloosa Community Band.
Also like some of the other participating Waffle Houses, the South Ferdon Boulevard restaurant will feature a photo booth where couples can have their pictures taken, to be retrieved later at a special website.
"It's the whole shebang," Mckeand said.
Couples are welcome to bring their kids along for the special evening, Mckeand added.
"It's a family-friendly event," she said.
Mckeand hasn't yet seen a marriage proposal on Valentine's Day, but there has been one special moment. Last year, a family that had just adopted a child from Ukraine brought the boy with them. "It was his first Waffle House experience," Mckeand said. "He loved it."
At the Waffle House on State Road 20 at Bluewater Bay near Niceville, manager Chris Chambers was looking forward Tuesday to his first Valentine's Day at that location.
"I'm excited about it," he said. His Waffle House had 18 reservations Tuesday, but Chambers is confident he'll have a full house Thursday.
"Most people always wait until the last minute," he said.
But construction is complicating things for Chambers. The restaurant closed at 2 p.m. Tuesday for the work, but will be ready for Thursday. In the meantime, people shouldn't hesitate to call for a reservation.
"I'll be here answering the phone," Chambers said.
To make a Valentine's Day reservation, call the Bluewater Bay Waffle House at (850) 897-7373, or dial the Crestview restaurant at (850) 682-7173, Milton at (850) 626-0514 or Gulf Breeze at (850) 932-5012.