Bright orange Afros are not usually associated with waffles. However for one classic Eugene restaurant, the iconic “fro” logo is not only recognizable, but indicates a unique breakfast perspective for many Eugenians.
Forget the classic breakfast of eggs, hash browns, and bacon. Instead, Off the Waffle, a Belgian restaurant, specializes in Liège waffles with unique toppings.
What makes Liège waffles different from other Belgian waffles is the chunks of pearl sugar folded inside the dough, giving them a rich sweet taste. The sugar melts during the rising process and forms a crispy, caramelized exterior when baked in a cast iron waffle press.
On a late chilly October Saturday afternoon, well past prime breakfast hours, the restaurant is still jam-packed with customers ranging from young families with rambunctious children to hung-over college students, to romantic couples, to father-daughter pairs.
Fried sugar wafts throughout the booths and bounces off bright tangerine-colored walls as cobalt blue plates stacked high with 3-D waffle towers are delivered to hungry wide-eyed patrons by a server wearing a tie–dyed shirt and floral print leggings.
The menu reads like your friendly next-door neighbor telling you an inside joke. When debating whether to get maple syrup, Off The Waffle suggests holding off. “Liege waffles don’t need maple syrup or butter,” it say, “but we won’t judge you if you order them.”
Bright orange type alerts customers to signature waffle creations with whimsical names such as “No, Really Though” and “Goat in Headlights.”
The “Be-Brie Peared” waffle, which I ordered, is described as somewhere “In Between” a savory waffle and a sweet dessert waffle, and is topped with sautéed onions, pear, and brie or gorgonzola cheese.
Because the waffle is caramelized with sugar, the actual waffle has a hard crystal coating. When tapped with a fork tine, it makes a pleasant “ting” sound. However, once your fork cuts through the outside shell, leaving a sticky caramel residue, a soft, dense buttery waffle emerges.
Although you could stop at just the waffle itself, Off the Waffle wow’s it’s customers with intense topping combinations. Take, for example, the waffle I ate- the “Be-Brie Peared.” This has sautéed onions, sliced pear, and Brie cheese. Other combinations include a fried egg, avocado and bacon, to ham, apple, and basil.
White speckled green dots of Gorgonzola are sprinkled atop thinly sliced pears with pink skin and veiny flesh. Underneath the fresh fruit are sautéed onions that collapse into the geometric square craters of the waffle, soaking up the sweet exterior. Finally a maple balsamic glaze pool of decadence surrounds the liege waffle.
The crisp pear combined with the fragerent cheese and the thick amber glaze make for a perfect bite. The glaze, which is thick, sweet, and instead left with a non-vinegar reduction, is a pleasant contrast to the crunch from the fresh pear and saltiness from the gorgonzola.
Stinky cheese and waffles? Balsamic and maple? Some may call the concoctions bizarre while others, such as myself, are along for the taste-bud intoxicating ride. You can visit Off the Waffle at two Eugene Locations:
2540 Willamette Street
840 Willamette Street