I cannot even tell you…I have been sitting on this day for literally months. Months! It’s National Waffle Day here in the States, and I couldn’t be happier. I simply adore waffles; they might be my favorite breakfast food when baked fresh. Waffles have been around in some shape or form since the Middle Ages, when wafer cakes were cooked using two metal plates with batter smushed in between them, making a flat, gridded wafer when the plates were cooked over a fire and flipped. We still make waffles this way, though we’ve given up on an open fire and more commonly use electrified waffle plates, and the batter is now leavened and sweetened to make a fluffy, tasty breakfast treat 🙂 There are different kinds of waffles depending on where in the world you’re eating them, from the original Belgian waffle (using yeast-leavened batter) to the denser Liege waffle and the baking-powder-leavened American waffle, what we usually see in IHOPs around the country. There’s even Vietnamese Pandan waffles that use coconut milk in the batter! That sounds amazing and if I ever find myself in Vietnam I know exactly what I’ll be eating every morning 🙂
But the best thing about waffles? What you put on them! 😀 Most people just opt for maple syrup on their waffles–and then proceed to fill in every “cell” of the gridded waffle pattern with a tiny bit of syrup–but you can stack waffles with just about any topping you choose, sweet or savory. Fresh fruit and whipped cream are big staples, and more unconventional choices include chocolate sauce, gingerbread spread (like Wafels & Dinges’ Spekuloos spread), ice cream, and even savory goodies like eggs and sausage. I never thought I’d like waffles with savory foods, but one restaurant I’ll talk about later definitely won me over on that front! The best waffles I’ve ever eaten, much like the best lasagna I’ve ever had, came from its original spot: Belgium. Belgian waffle stands are all over the place in the capital city of Brussels, like hot dog carts are in New York, and it was tough not eating the fluffy, sweet treats for every meal of the day. I had waffles every morning for breakfast as it was, from this little father-daughter cafe that made them fresh right in front of you, served to you warm and covered in chocolate sauce. It was the simplest, yet most elegant and tasty waffle I ever had.
That isn’t to say that you can’t get delicious waffles here in New York City! There are tons of bakeries and brunch places that make an excellent, homemade waffle–hell, there are restaurants that make only waffles! If you’ve got to have your waffle fix right away, check your Twitter timeline and track down the famous Wafels & Dinges truck wherever it may be in the city today. They always make top-notch waffles with delicious and outrageous toppings, and their staff are always friendly and fun. But I’ve written about W&D to death on this blog already, so I wanted to give other waffle masters a chance 😉
For a delicious Belgian style waffle–in a place where you can sit down and actually enjoy your brunch!–definitely hit up one of the Petite Abeille locations dotted around the city. Even though there are three locations, this “chain” is all New York, and each shop doles out high-quality Belgian waffles with whimsy and charm. Directly translated as the “little bee,” Petite Abeille offers both Belgian and Liege waffles, though the lighter, fluffier Belgian is their bestseller. You can order up to seven different toppings on your Belgian waffle, in any combination. I suggest the “banana split” combo: top your waffle with ice cream, bananas, and chocolate sauce, and you won’t even need to worry about how dense the waffle may be underneath! Petite Abeille also serves full breakfast and savory French and Belgian dishes for the rest of the day, but really, if you’re hitting this restaurant up, especially on National Waffle Day, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t order at least one–even for dessert. The fact that you can get a perfectly cooked Belgian waffle with whipped cream and strawberry sauce for only $7–and the enormous banana split waffle is only $11–only sweetens this waffle joint even more!
44 W 17th St (between 5th Ave & Avenue Of The Americas)
“Founded by brothers Christophe, Yves and David Jadot in 1996, Petite Abeille offers a taste of Belgium in New York’s Lower East Side. Their Brussels and Liege waffles, named after the cities where they were first made, have become American favorites. The Liege waffle is heavier and sweeter than the more widely recognized Brussels waffle and is served plain. For the Brussels waffle, Petite Abeille offers 7 different kinds of toppings, from the simple strawberry sauce to the sublime “banana split,” featuring chocolate sauce, ice cream and bananas.”–Travel Channel
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“I came here with my boyfriend due to a random craving for waffles and it was a great find. The restaurant was so cute, with Tin Tin books everywhere. We shared a banana split waffle, which was a Belgian waffle with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, bananas and whipped cream. It was absolutely delicious. At the end, the bill only came out to $12 and that was with tax. Not bad for an enormous dessert for two in Flatiron.”–A. O.
“So many things on the menu looked delicious, so it was a shame that we could only choose a couple items on the menu. I had the strawberry waffles, while my girlfriend got the special omelet of the day – the ratatouille. Unlike standard American waffles, which are a little on the thicker side, these waffles were very light, with a good helping of whipped cream and freshly cut strawberries, surrounded by light (read: not artificial/fake) strawberry syrup. It was absolutely delicious, and it’s the first time I’ve been inclined to eat a waffle or pancake without feeling like I needed to have maple syrup added.”–Asuka N.
But for some people, when you say the word “waffles” you don’t think light, fluffy, sweet Belgian squares. You revel in the thick, pancake-like American style waffles, which are less sweet and usually need some butter and syrup to make them shine. You think about something dense and savory and…deep fried?! What I’m talking about, of course, is the Southern American tradition of eating chicken and waffles, particularly for breakfast. I can honestly say I’ve never tried this, and I don’t know how it’d be a great combination–the deep-fried, breaded chicken right next to the cakey waffles–but since it’s such a huge phenomenon and tradition for so many people, it has to be doing something right. If you’re going to take the plunge and have a side order of fried chicken with your waffles, you’ve got to go to Melba’s, no question. The established soul food restaurant in Harlem gained national acclaim when celebrity chef Bobby Flay challenged Melba Wilson to a Throwdown on his show (aptly named “Throwdown” lol). They both cooked chicken and waffles, Melba making hers with an eggnog batter, and she completely trounced the celebrity chef. That’s what he gets for trying to take on an institution! It’s the strange and seemingly incongruent ingredients that makes Melba’s chicken and waffles so good: mustard and buttermilk-soaked fried chicken is paired with the eggnog waffles and served with strawberry butter. It’s a hefty breakfast, I’ll definitely admit that, but it’s not to be missed. And if you simply can’t fathom running up to Harlem and eating fried chicken for breakfast, do not despair: their signature comfort food dish is served for all meals. So dig your heels (and forks!) into this delicious sweet and savory dish!
300 W 114th St (between 8th Ave & Manhattan Ave)
“It’s a shame that Bobby Flay had to go all the way uptown to Harlem for his Chicken and Waffles Throwdown! since there was no way he could possibly beat Melba Wilson’s. On paper, the recipe looks like the work of a mad woman—mustard and buttermilk-soaked fried chicken piled on waffles made with eggnog in place of cream, all finished with sweet strawberry butter and even sweeter maple syrup. But somehow, when all of the elements come together (and are doused with syrup) it’s insane in the most delicious way.”–Serious Eats
“For those of us who remember places like Wilson’s and Wells for our favorite Sunday morning chicken and waffles, say hello to Melba’s. Good ‘ole fashion southern cooking continues its tradition at one of Harlem’s newest restaurants. We’re talking Sweet Potato Pancakes, Buttermilk Waffles, Smothered Fried Chicken, Steak and Eggs, Turkey Bacon Beef Sausage and Grits. And that’s just a sample from the Brunch menu.”–Cuisine Noir Magazine
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“I’ve had lots of things on the menu, but the chicken and waffles are great. I don’t like fruit…at all, but Melba has me craving for the strawberry butter with my waffles. Now to be fair, it’s not a full waffle they are three small waffles which is fine by me because the bird is really the star of the show. The crispy outer and juicy inner is exactly what fried chicken should taste like and when the syrup from the waffles manages to stick to the skin…that’s when the magic begins!”–Mike H.
“We ordered the CHICKEN and WAFFLES, which came out with two pieces of fried chicken and three cute little eggnog waffles. Now, to be honest, I was a lil skeptical of the eggnog waffles. Eggnog? in waffles? Needless to say, It was AMAZZZZING. Best waffles I’ve ever had. period. And it came with the STRAWBERRY BUTTER that yall were yelping about. OMGASM. legit. I wanna ask how they make it / where they get it, but i’m pretty sure its something that is not shared with the public.”–Christine L.
And finally, here’s the reason I’ve been sitting on National Waffle Day for so long; and it’s not even in New York City! When I first started this blog, my friend Clio was super supportive of my undertaking. She told me about this life-changing Liege waffle place in South Orange where a coworker of hers picked up breakfast before heading into her Manhattan office. The waffles shared among her coworkers from the place were intensely different than anything she’d had on her side of the river, and suggested that when I have National Waffle Day to include this place on the list, even though New Jersey is really, really not New York City. (“You’re not ‘pretty much’ New Yorkers, so why don’t you crawl back into the open sewer hole you call the Holland Tunnel and go back to ‘pretty much New York’!”–my favorite line from How I Met Your Mother, which jives with the Clio connection as well!) I was sitting on it so long, the place even changed its name while I waited!
The Grid Iron Waffle Shop makes fantastic Liege-style waffles right to order, and they’ll make them both plain and stuffed for you with anything on their menu. That’s right, stuffed waffles–and when I say “anything” on their menu, I mean anything! They go for the simple, rational stuffings, like walnuts, fresh fruit, and chocolate chips, but you can order anything that you’d normally have on the side of your waffle for breakfast, like scrambled eggs, grilled mushrooms, or even breakfast sausage! And the stuffed insanity doesn’t stop there: get an even savor-ier stromboli waffle with mozzarella, prosciutto, and peppers and onions, topped with the Grid Iron’s homemade marinara sauce. It sounds like madness, and it is–delicious, savory waffle madness! They stretch the limits of the waffle far beyond anything your frozen Aunt Jemima box in the freezer would ever consider. It behooves you to try this amazing and unique waffle at least once, and that’s what I did: back in May Clio joined me on this side of the river for the Avengers movie marathon, and we brunched at this fantastic wafflerie of delights. I got adventurous–because when’s the next time I’ll be able to eat this?–and had a waffle stuffed with grilled onions, peppers, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese. And let me tell you…it was amazing! The waffle itself is sweet, with a hint of vanilla sugar in the fluffy dough, and it complements the savory fixins incredibly well. It’s not a neat meal in the least, but when you get a waffle that tastes this good, you almost want to wear your stained shirt with pride. The best part is, Grid Iron Waffle Shop is right around the corner from the South Orange train station on NJ Transit, so you can hop onto the train from Penn Station, get there in less than a half hour, and zip right back over the Hudson in no time!
Grid Iron Waffle Shop
12 S Orange Ave, South Orange
“During their excursion to Europe, the couple took a train across Belgium and got off at just about every stop. Waffles were served everywhere: in fine-dining establishments, cafés, even on the street, where vendors would package them in brown bags and customers would eat them on the go, the way pedestrians will buy hot pretzels from vendors on the streets of New York City. The Boeles also discovered that waffles are not relegated to being a breakfast food, and their Grid Iron Waffle Shop also offers brioche, whole wheat, focaccia, pizza-crust and biscuit-style waffles that serve as the “bread” for breakfast and lunch sandwiches.”–North Jersey.Com
“The couple, waffle connoisseurs who opened their first Grid Iron location four years ago in South Orange, make their waffles using a yeasted dough -not batter – stuff them with fruit, nuts, chocolate and other wonderful things, then roll them in Swedish sugar, which has giant grains that look like sea salt crystals or sesame seeds. The result is a thick, soft, sweet waffle that has the taste and consistency of French toast or brioche, and doesn’t need a drop of syrup.”–Destination Montclair
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“My friend and I split the stuffed strawberry waffle, which was just amazing… not too sweet and the perfect size. Seriously incredible. The boys with us had their savory stuffed waffles with eggs and various breakfast meats… both sounded pretty happy with their choices. This place is very quickly becoming my favorite lunch place in the entire tri-state area… I wavered a bit giving them 5 stars since the atmosphere is not soooo amazing… but the amazingness of the food has gotten to me and I feel compelled to award 5 stars.”–Felicia K.
“Never heard of waffles stuffed w/bacon, eggs, and cheese. I was initially turned off just by the description of it, so I tried a stuffed waffle w/bananas and walnuts w/powered sugar. Might I say it was DELICIOUS. I did try the stuffed waffle w/the eggs, bacon, and cheese and was very surprised it too was delicious. Initially when I got the waffle, I looked at it and thought….. boy this is small, guess I’ll have to get something to eat again afterwards. I did manage to eat the whole waffle (I have to add that I never finish any of my meals) and it was filling. My suggestion: be creative, try something new and step outside the box a little.”–Audrey L.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!