Walter Mencken 4 p.m., May 3
Cafe Hue rules at waffles
Convoy Street bakery is worth a trip for coffee and dessert
How a place like Cafe Hue (3860 Convoy Street, 858-571-7947) comes to be is a mystery. If the name indicates anything, it’s a Vietnamese business, but they sell Liege-style waffles, crepes, and gelato; none of which are known as specialties of the global Vietnamese diaspora.
Curious, and more of a delightful novelty than anything else. However Cafe Hue came about, it was a good idea on someone’s part.
The crepes may be the most recognizable thing on the menu for a lot of people, but it’s the waffles that steal the show. Waffles and Belgium are undeniably linked in people’s minds, but what we call “Belgian waffles” here in the US aren’t all that Belgian. They’re an American interpretation of a Brussels waffle, which is lighter and crispier than its close, Belgian cousin, the Liege-waffle, which is characterized by a dense batter and caramelized pearl sugar.
Waffle taxonomy, surprisingly, is a difficult subject.
Cafe Hue’s waffles are more Belgian than American, mostly because they’re risen with yeast instead of baking powder. The shape and yeasty denseness evokes the Liege waffle, but the crispy exterior and lack of crunchy bits of caramelized pearl sugar pushes it back towards Brussels-waffle territory. Being neither one nor the other doesn’t stop it from being excellent, however, especially when topped with a scoop of Cafe Hue’s not-too-sweet gelato. $4.75 is a great deal for a waffle with a big orb of ice cream on it, melting into the nooks and crannies and creating hot/cold magical fusion food. Some of the gelato flavors there are almost savory, like the pistachio and the black sesame, which make mystic pastry juju in combination with a yeasty, chewy waffle.
It’s good. Like, worth a special trip good, especially if you’re any kind of a waffle groupie.