Restaurant Review: What the Waffle
What the Waffle made its splashy, mid-summer King-Lincoln debut in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, when your business is waffles, it’s hard to do anything quietly. People get excited about starch and sugar.
As it turns out, the excitement almost did the waffler in. Lines of customers queued up all the way down the street. The reported waffle wait time was discouraging. The swarm was downright overwhelming.
And so, What the Waffle made an unusual move. It closed its doors, recalculated its approach, and opened again mid-August.
Things seem to be running pretty smoothly now. What the Waffle is set up as a carryout operation. You can smell the sweet, toasty waffle aroma outside its doors. Inside, there’s an order counter and three tall chairs; surprisingly comfortable, they make good spots to perch and wait. Customers wear masks, and try their best to socially distance themselves in different corners of the tiny operation.
After ordering, the wait is just long enough to check your phone, and take a little time to admire the digs. If you can find a space on the chalkboard wall, you can add your name to it in bright chalk (ours is bottom, center-ish). There’s also a stellar waffle sculpture, hanging high above on the west wall. It’s bedecked with bacon strips and its giant waffle grid is made of stained wood. It’s worth appreciating.
And then, it’s time to collect the order, each item carefully boxed and bagged.
Let’s start with the foundation: the waffles. They are classic, big rounds, with deep pockets, fresh-off-the-iron (you can actually watch this process through the gated wall for the kitchen). The waffles themselves are textbook springy and delightful foundations for the various permutations offered on the menu.
So, Bacon & Jalapeño ($6)? Yes. Unsure of what to expect, bits of both are baked into the batter, adding little pops of flavor. As served, the waffle quarters are coated with powdered sugar, and quite nice alone. Syrup wasn’t a bad addition, though. As you might expect, it amped up the sweetness and weight of each bite. The waffles are excellent syrup sponges.
Alternately there’s the French-E ($5.25). That’s a waffle that gets a quick French-Toast styled egg soak, before spending a little quality time on the griddle. The treatment adds heft and a little bonus caramelized crunch.
The Breakfast Potatoes ($2.50) were suggested, and almost outdid the waffles. That may have something to do with the chosen add-ons: bacon, cheese and sour cream ($1.25). The kitchen does not scrimp on melted cheese. And the humble potato is never better than when it serves as a vehicle for melted cheese.
There are sweet potato muffins, too ($1.25). They are modest things, like what muffins used to look like until coffee shops mutated them into loaded cupcakes. Orange-ish and plain-looking, they get more impressive with the first bite. Absent is the cloying “pumpkin spice” accent that often pollutes autumnal baked goods. Present is an achingly tender crumb and pure unadulterated humble happiness.
Breakfast hours run until 11 a.m. Wednesdays through Fridays. The morning menu also includes some waffle sandwiches as well as omelettes. At mid-day, it shifts to a lunch menu, still featuring waffles as a foundation for more savory fare. On weekends, it runs a brunch menu that includes its version of Chicken & Waffles and Shrimp & Grits.
You’ll find it at 695 E. Long St.
For more information, visit whatthewaffle.org.
All photos by Susan Post