Although the south has done little to advance progressive thought in the United States, they were progressive on at least one front: hash browns. Southerners were combining potatoes, cheese and gravy long before Quebec even thought about poutine. Although the result is nothing like poutine, hash browns are fantastic nonetheless. Keep in mind that the stuff you get down south tastes nothing like the deep-fried potato croquettes that pass for hash browns back home.
Waffle House is my go-to place for hash browns. Despite the name, you rarely ever see anyone eating waffles there, but there are always plenty of hash browns on the grill. This chain has 1600 stores located near highways in most of the southern states, but you won’t find any north of the Mason-Dixon line. Most restaurants look like they were designed in the fake wood golden age of the 1970s, giving them a certain nostalgia-chic factor missing from other chains. All the ones I’ve eaten at have been managed by an army of loud diner grannies with raspy voices that yell at the junior staff one minute and call you “hon” the next.
Hash browns are basically grated potatoes fried with lots of butter until they’re nice and crispy. They’re great on their own, but even better with toppings. “Covered” means with grilled onions; “smothered” means with bits of orange cheese; and “country” adds some white country sausage gravy on top. Other toppings are available, but these are the most common.
It’s good stuff. I wouldn’t know where to get proper hash browns up north, so you’ll have to drive down to Virginia to give them a shot.