3519 30th Street, North Park
Wow Wow Waffle never occupied a typical location. Its kitchen is built into a freestanding two-car garage that sits behind the 30th Street Laundry coin-op wash and dry. It’s easy to miss, because there’s not a typical restaurant sign out front. So, despite driving by often, it took me a while to realize the place had changed its name earlier this spring. Fittingly, it’s now called Atypical Waffle Company.
Apparently, the name change has to do with its relation to the broader Wow Wow Waffle brand, which started serving waffles and lemonade in Northern California and subsequently moved to Hawaii. But in Hawaii, lemonade proved more popular, leading its founders to rebrand as Wow Wow Lemonade. That Wow Wow brand will soon expand to San Diego, so the owners of our local offshoot, sticking primarily to waffle-based dishes, have graciously relinquished the Wow Wow name to make room for their friends.
Little has changed on the waffle front. The house specialty remains the Liege style of Belgian waffles: soft, brioche-inspired waffles that use beet-derived pearl sugar to furnish caramelize crusts.
Atypical Waffle still offers sweet and savory waffle constructions — though now there’s a middle category labeled “not as sweet,” which includes the likes of a Greek yogurt, fruit, and granola “parfait waffle” ($6.50). I arrived too close to the breakfast and lunch spot’s 2pm closing time to try this one — Atypical had run out of yogurt.
It had also run out of turkey, so I couldn’t order one of the more intriguing additions to the savory menu. The “turkey sammie” ($8.75) uses waffles as bread for a sandwich including red pepper, arugula, mozzarella cheese, and mayo. Fortunately, Atypical hadn’t run out of smoked salmon this day, so I was quite pleased to order the Dan Loxman, a regular fixture that dresses the smoked fish with cream cheese, red onions, and capers for $8.75. This day, they were adding avocado as well, so lucky me.
The outdoor space surrounding that converted garage has changed since I first visited nearly four years ago. There’s an airstream trailer back there now, mostly for storage and décor from the looks of it. The old rows of stadium seating remain, though now they’re mostly set around tables beneath wooden pergolas build against rain. Additional seating in the back now includes a bizarre tent designed to resemble a vintage Volkswagen bus, a fire pit, and a small, elevated stage populated by an acoustic guitar.
Initially, I was skeptical of the smoked salmon and sweet waffle combo, because when I order the dish’s bagel inspiration, I would never order cinnamon raisin, blueberry, or any other sweet bagel option. But it’s not like Atypical inserted one of its delicious chocolate filled waffles here. The cream cheese tied the smoky and sweet together just enough to make it work, and the caper/onion flavors otherwise steered the meal firmly into the savory column.
It may be an atypical breakfast item, in an atypical restaurant. But it still merits a couple of wows.