Whole fried soft-shell crab on top of a savory Old Bay-seasoned waffle served at Atwood Cafe in Chicago.
Waffles may still conjure memories of the “Leggo my Eggo” variety you popped in the toaster when you were a kid, but the ones we found go beyond breakfast with wildly unexpected flavors. Whether sprinkled with cheese and fresh herbs, pumped up with foie gras or boozy with beer, waffles are getting a makeover.
Sweet Iron Waffles: Adrienne Jeffrey was inspired to open a shop selling traditional Liege waffles in Seattle after living with her family in Brussels during college. She opened shop about two years ago, starting with basic waffles, which expanded into creative combinations like brie, basil and bacon.
Atwood Café: This Chicago favorite serves an inventive mash-up of a crab cake and a regular waffle on their dinner menu. Chef Derek Simcik says the dish came to him after craving chicken and waffles one day. But he didn’t want basic chicken, and since it was soft shell crab season, he decided to dip those savory crustaceans in a buttermilk batter and fry away. “I decided to not use Old Bay in the crab or breading,” he says. “Rather, I used it in the waffles to help cut some of the sweetness that is typically found in batters and to bring a nice savory element to the dish.”
Do or Dine: Deep in the heart of Brooklyn, Justin Warner and George McNeese have been cooking up a storm of strange food combos like potatoes and marshmallow, solid pickle juice and deviled eggs with octopus. The latest menu item is their chicken and woffles [sic], and, true to form, this dish takes a turn for the weird — in a good way. Fluffy waffles get pumped full of creamy chicken liver, topped with a whole roasted Cornish hen and then slathered in a tart and sweet blood orange sauce. Finally, as if that wasn’t enough, a scoop of chicken liver crowns the bird.
Founding Farmers: This environmentally friendly restaurant, a stone's throw from the White House, specializes in natural ingredients. Their special vegan waffle is made with Sam Smith Oatmeal Stout and soy milk and topped with homemade caramel sauce and sliced banana. They iron-press the waffle to give a crunch to the golden crust, and even though it’s not covered in butter.
B&O American Brasserie
B&O American Brasserie: A waffle is kind of like a cake — it has eggs, flour, butter, and sugar in the batter. So, why not a waffle that is even more like a cake? In Baltimore chef Thomas Dunklin makes red velvet waffles with cream cheese frosting. “I created red velvet doughnuts for the dessert menu last year and they were such a huge hit that I thought that it would be fun to try them out as waffles,” said Dunklin, a southerner by birth who values tradition. “Everyone loves sweets for breakfast and it is already one of our most popular brunch items.”
Area 31: Chef E. Michael Reidt looks at his plates as works of art. Take his Miami restaurant’s smoked shrimp with guacamole and foie gras with duck confit and dried cherry jam waffles: “We treat waffles as a blank platform where almost anything can be built,” said Reidt, who compared the process to the layers in a Kanye West song. “Bold flavors stand up to a heavy egg and flour batter, making them far more suited to savory courses when they are so often stuck at breakfast.”
Waffle Window: Mary Fishback wanted to make her sons’ dreams of European waffles come true, so this dessert chef created Waffle Window, a Portland go-to for traditional, pearl sugar-laced Liege-style waffles. Fishback not only modified the classic batter, but also started adding all sorts of sweet and savory accoutrements. The craziest combination she came up with: The Whole Farm, a pepper bacon, mushroom, spinach, roasted pepper, tomato and marinated chevre waffle extravaganza.
Harvest Restaurant: Finding fried chicken and waffles in Kentucky isn’t hard, but chef Coby Lee Ming makes hers stand out by building the batter with kabocha squash and adding blueberry bacon jam on the side. “Fried chicken and waffles is a traditional dish that reminds me a lot of my Louisiana roots and it’s also rich in the history of southern soul food,” she said. “It fits perfectly with our idea of rustic regional cuisine, and using the seasonal kobacha squash in the waffle pays homage to those great fall vegetables."
Central 214: From the outside, this uptown Dallas restaurant looks more clubby than cozy, but the American cuisine coming out of the kitchen says otherwise. Pastry chef Gladys Ibanez knows how to dazzle diners, especially with her chocolate fudge waffle, which comes topped with house-made peanut butter ice cream and a pile of caramelized bananas. “We are updating a Southern tradition with the rich flavors of chocolate and bananas,” she said. “Our peanut butter ice cream creates the perfect complement, plus, it’s made with fresh, regionally sourced ingredients.”
Tell us, how do you like to deck out your waffles?
Linnea Covington is a freelancer writer and eater who will try any drink, dish, or sweet at least once, especially if it involves chili or bourbon.