Photo of mugs (above) and “Elvis” (below) via Waffle Stop Facebook page
On the morning of February 21, 1956, a young man walked into the Waffle Stop on Sarasota’s South Washington Boulevard for breakfast. He ordered three eggs with bacon, three glasses of milk, pan-fried potatoes, and toast. Once he finished, he paid for his meal, leaving behind a 50₵ tip and an autographed picture of himself.
The waitress who served the young man, Edith Barr Dunn pocketed the tip and threw the picture in the trash. After all, she’d never before heard of this kid with the odd-sounding name. Months later, however, she saw that same young man on The Ed Sullivan Show. She never forgot the name Elvis Presley after that. In fact, Edith later owned the Waffle Stop and turned it into a kind of tribute to the time he stopped in. Still, she regretted throwing that picture away until her dying day at the age of 94 on February 3, 2015.
Eat Where Elvis Ate
Today, the restaurant still pays tribute to the young man who would become the King of Rock & Roll. “Elvis Ate Here!” is prominently displayed on the window outside. Inside, guests are greeted by a larger-than-life statue of Presley, and his pictures take up nearly every inch of wall space. Coffee is served in mugs with, well, Elvis’ mug and the words “Elvis dined here in 1956. Sarasota, Florida” printed on them. And of course, the jukebox is a veritable greatest hits collection of the King.
What’s more, even the menu gets the rock & roll royalty treatment. Sure, you can order the same thing Elvis ate for breakfast at this landmark restaurant. However, why settle for simple bacon & eggs when you can order the spicy Burning Love or the All Shook Up omelet?
For lunch, try the Hunka Hunka Burger, the Blackened Blue Suede Shoes Burger, or the Ain’t Nothing but a Hound Dog. If you’re looking for something a little lighter, there’s always the Hard-Headed Woman Chicken Salad. Be sure to order whatever you choose with a side of Jailhouse Rock chili cheese fries.
Long Live the King
While you’re looking at the Waffle Stop menu, you might notice an ad for Jim “Elvis” Reese.
The Sarasota area is full of Elvis tribute artists, and Jim Reese is perhaps one of the most well-known. His love for Elvis began as a teen. One day he was on his father’s boat mending a net and listening to a local hillbilly station. That’s when Jim says he heard the most electric voice he’d ever heard – before or since. He found the singer’s voice so incredible that he put down the net and mending hook to get closer to the radio. Of course, it was the voice of Elvis Presley. That was when Jim – and not just his father’s net – was hooked.
Years later, Jim retired from his career as a gym teacher and became a full-time Elvis tribute artist. His sister sewed his first couple of jumpsuits, a collection that now includes a specially made replica of Elvis’ peacock jumpsuit. Jim’s wife, Judy, helps him manage Jim “Elvis” Reese Entertainment. Jim has performed as Elvis across the country – from Sarasota to Branson, Missouri. What’s more, on special occasions like Elvis’ birthday or remembering his passing, Jim can often be found performing at the Waffle Stop.
Going to Graceland (South)
Stephanie Stuckey croons a tune with the King at Graceland South
And Jim doesn’t just walk the walk (or swagger, we suppose, in Elvis’ case) when it comes to paying homage to the king. The Reeses live in a home decorated inside and out with all sorts of Elvis memorabilia collected over the years. They call it “Graceland South,” and you can’t miss it. At the entrance, you’ll find a life-size, in-living-color statue of Elvis mid-song. And behind the gates with silhouettes of Elvis on them is a mural of the original Graceland gates.
Unfortunately, tours of the inside of Graceland South are not open to the public. However, those that have been to the Reeses’ annual Chinese New Year Party describe it exactly as what you’d expect. With luxurious red carpeting, dark furniture, soft lighting, and everything Elvis that you can imagine, walking into the house can be a sensory explosion. In fact, pictures, statues, and other Elvis memorabilia adorn so much wall and ceiling, there’s hardly room to add more. There’s even a jungle room decorated with animal prints and lush plant life.
Graceland South is located at the end of Windemere Place in Sarasota. However, please remember: This is a private residence, so don’t go beyond the gate.
Elvis at the Opera
So what was Elvis doing in Sarasota that morning? Well, he was actually playing at the Florida Theatre that night as part of his first nationwide tour. In addition to Elvis’ backup crew – the Jordanaires and the Blue Moon Boys – other artists on the bill included the future Mrs. Johnny Cash, June Carter and the Louvin Brothers. Tickets were $1, and Elvis took the stage at 7:35pm.
Known today as the Sarasota Opera House, the venue – formerly known as the Florida Theatre – offers a robust calendar of events, including classic films, signature local events, festivals, and of course, opera. Check out the calendar on their website. 🌊
Did you know that Florida Wawa stores carry your favorite Stuckey’s Maple Flavored Toasted Pecans? That means if you’re craving some delicious Stuckey’s pecans while touring around Sarasota, go ahead and stop in one of the many Wawa stores in the area to get your Stuckey’s Maple Flavored Toasted Pecans fix.
Of course, you can always get your favorite road trip snacks like our world-famous Stuckey’s Pecan Log Rolls, classic Stuckey’s Pecan Pralines and our family favorite Hunkey Dorey popcorn snacks delivered right to your door.
Head over to stuckey’s.com today and place your order for your next big road trip. (And check out our new Four Flavor Pecan Sampler Multi-Pack with a 2oz. Stuckey’s Pecan Log Roll while you’re there!)
And don’t forget, if you’re looking for more exciting and fun things to do along America’s third coast, visit Go! Gulf States online, check out the events listings, and start planning your next big road trip today!
Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun Again.