JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – It all started at a Waffle House.
For Chad and Alysse Rowland, it was the beginning of a year-long journey that brought the two together as father and daughter before she officially left the nest.
During a Waffle House birthday breakfast for Alysse’s brother in the fall of 2021, Chad floated the idea of repeating the breakfast date the next week. Then the next, and the next.
“It was just one of those things that one week turned into two, turned into four. Before we knew it, we kind of had a streak going,” Chad said. “And we’re like, ‘Hey, we need to keep this up’ and we started looking all over the Tri-Cities trying to find new places to go to.”
The Johnson City duo were more than happy to give local breakfast joints a shot, and it wasn’t long before they were posting their reviews on Facebook and taking feedback from their friends on where they should hit next. When they did, they always accompanied it with a photo and review. When it was possible, they also met with business owners to provide feedback on the meal.
“Out of all 40 places, we only had one place,” Alysse said, speaking about their single bad experience. “But that place ended up going out of business.”
In a list posted at the end of their tour, Pop’s Restaurant took first prize as the Rowland’s favorite Tri-Cities’ breakfast joint. For the pair, it was the cuisine and atmosphere that made it stand out.
“We’ve both grown up just eating good country breakfasts,” Chad said. “And that’s what we kind of tended to lean toward.”
For Alysse, a visitor can get a good gauge on a restaurant in seconds.
“When you walk into a place you can kind of off the bat tell if it’s going to be really good,” she said. “Because you see all of the locals there, and the servers are like ‘Hey, are you having your usual?’ and you know this is going to be good.”
But 40 breakfasts later, both said the true value of the tour came from the time spent with each other.
“She is going off to school this Saturday,” Chad said. “And to me, that was the part of this that was just priceless looking back.”
As a 19-year-old that spent much of her time last year sorting out the hectic challenges of high school and lining up her future, Alysse said the opportunity to learn from her dad was a lifesaver.
“I was about to go on this journey,” she said. “And I got to talk through those hard conversations and just spend some quality time with my dad before I have to leave, and that was just so special to me.”
Looking forward, Alysse is headed to Anderson University to pursue Kinesiology, a three-hour drive from home. But the tours might not necessarily be over, since Chad and Amanda Rowland have a son who’s only a couple of years away from his own senior year.
“Time’s one of those things that you can’t get more of,” Chad said. “And you can’t get back. Priceless time that we got to spend together, priceless conversations that we can always look back on, kind of the grand finale of watching her grow up.”