3519 30th Street, North Park
I learned a lot about waffles when my dog, Loki, and I finally found Wow Wow Waffle in its semi-secret location behind the coin laundry at 30th Street and Myrtle in North Park. It's a small, DIY type shop, built into a converted garage down a narrow walkway about twenty yards back from the sidewalk. It's all the more homey-feeling considering it opened simultaneously with the slickly designed North Parker building and its cadre of hipster must-try restaurants just a block away (I'm speaking without irony here — it's a solid group).
What I learned is there are more than one kind of Belgian waffle. Brussels waffles are what we're typically accustomed to here on US soil. These are made with batter, tasting similar to pancakes.
The more famous kind — at least in Belgium — are Liege waffles. Apparently some 18th century prince-bishop in Liège wanted his waffles to taste more like brioche (and we all know how prince-bishops can be). So his personal chef whipped up a recipe making waffles from brioche dough. At some point, the recipe began to include pearl sugar, a beet-derived sugar that softens rather than melts, and in the case of waffles, caramelizes the crust.
These are the type of waffles adding the extra wow to Wow Waffles. The place is dog friendly, considering it's entirely made up of outdoor seating, which is mostly theater seats placed around a variety of outdoor tables on concrete, astroturf, or mulch (not the best choice for dogs with shaggy coats). The place has the feel of a Portland, Oregon establishment — a sort of low-budget entrepreneurial vibe that only works when the specialty product it's built around tastes really, really good.
These do. A chalkboard menu lays out the waffles available. Most are sweet, involving fruit and or honey and powdered sugar. I went for one stuffed with melted chocolate bars and topped by sliced strawberries for five bucks. Considering it was a pretty stacked pile of fresh berries, I'd say it worked out pretty well.
I wanted to compare this to a savory offering, so I also picked up the candied bacon, avocado and goat cheese option for seven bucks. The cool thing about ordering the second waffle, is that when the two were brought to my table, the owner brought a screen cake dome to cover the second while I ate the first, to protect it from flies. Brilliant, because we all know flies are a reality of outside dining (which doesn't reflect poorly on the restaurant by the way).
I devoured my sweet waffle while enjoying a cold-brew Costa Rican single origin coffee from Coffee & Tea Collective, which paired well with the berries. Then I took the top off the savory waffle, with a caramelized crust that was just as crispy and sweet. The candied bacon kept it from being too savory, but the inclusion of avocado sure gave it a California sensibility — I can't help wonder if they've ever tried it this way in Belgium? Maybe somewhere in Brussels a small California establishment is showing Belgians the way of avocado and roasted poblanos. I hope so.