Although there are those who would scoff, I sometimes ask myself, why shouldn’t a person be allowed to eat breakfast food at any time of day, be it for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert? And when it comes to eating waffles, especially while traveling, perhaps there should be no boundaries.
Zinneken’s in Cambridge, Massachusetts (by Harvard Square) seems to follow in that same philosophy as it opens at 8am and serves through to 11pm (midnight on Saturdays). They specialize in two different types of waffles—the “Liege”-a soft waffle made from dough with caramelized Belgian pearl sugar, and the “Brussels”-a crispier waffle made from batter.
Although I tend to just want to enjoy waffles with fresh fruit (bananas, strawberries, blueberries—whatever looks best) and maple syrup, there are plenty of choices for the waffle gourmand. For instance, my 8-year-old daughter seems to enjoy the “Strawberry Glamour” (with strawberries, Belgian chocolate and whipped cream), and I’m fairly certain she also would have happily suffered through “The Sin” (with banana and Nutella).
Belgian pop culture is also introduced in the form of memorabilia from “The Adventures of Tintin,” on counters, shelves and walls. And the chairs are labeled with famous Belgians ranging from Audrey Hepburn, to Jean Claude Van Damme and Hercule Poirot.
Chicken & Waffles-Justified
When we lived in Los Angeles, I was first introduced to the concept of “chicken and waffles” in the form of “Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles.” The Long Beach, California restaurant was actually founded by Herb Hudson, of Harlem, in 1975. It gained popularity after some of his Motown and TV friends spread the word to other celebs who, for some reason, apparently didn’t question the combination—they just enjoyed it. From Red Foxx to Natalie Cole, this L.A. institution justified the concept of eating the savory fried chicken alongside sweet waffles drenched in syrup, while also specializing in other soul food, including Mac & cheese, greens, and hot water cornbread.
Never let it be said that I’m too much of a waffle snob to enjoy the friendly neighborhood waffle joint that “Waffle House” strives to be 24-7, 365 days a year. (It even inspired an urban myth that the restaurants have no locks because there’s always someone there.)
First opened on Labor Day, 1955 by two neighbors Joe Roger, Sr. and Tom Forkner, in Avondale Estates, an Atlanta suburb where they felt a 24-hour restaurant was needed, Waffle House now boasts more than 1600 restaurants in 25 states.
The mission at the time was to “create a restaurant focused on people-both the associates and customers-while serving quality food at a great value.” It’s hard to believe in the world of semi-fast food, but I’ve yet to find a Waffle House where we weren’t served with a smile. (Of course, we’ve not eaten at all 1600 locations, but still…) There are a few things you can always count on from the menu—in particular, the waffles and the hashbrowns. Learn the lingo so you can decide if you want them smothered (with sautéed onions), covered (with melted cheese), chunked (with grilled hickory smoked ham), diced (with grilled tomatoes), peppered (with spicy Jalapenos), capped (with grilled button mushrooms), topped (with Bert’s chili) or country (with sausage gravy).
If you’re in Atlanta’s Avondale Estates, you can even tour “The Waffle House Museum,” site of the very first restaurant that’s been restored to “feel as though you’re stepping back into 1955.” Tours should be scheduled two days in advance by calling 770.326.7086 and take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
One waffle footnote– maple syrup purists (and yes, this will seem ridiculous to some readers) may want to travel with a small bottle of your own maple syrup, as you just never know when you may stumble on a waffle place that serves only corn syrup. (It’s typically not too hard to bring in if a restaurant doesn’t have it on the menu.)
Don’t waffle-just do it!