In Columbus, Ohio, there’s an area just north of Downtown called the Short North; once a neighborhood-friendly haven for the arts, it has become synonymous with trend-chasing mediocrity and drunk people named Chad. Among other more nuanced issues, the impossibility of finding parking makes the happiness meters of most who go there half-empty before they even get out of their cars. Nevertheless, when I woke up this Sunday with a hankering for waffles, I recalled a new restaurant right on the edge of the Short North: Belgian Iron Wafel Company.
To my chagrin, Belgian Iron Wafel Company fit perfectly into my narrative of the disappointing but photogenic, overpriced and underwhelming Short North. Conceptually, the restaurant is a success. We know this because in Ohio we already have the beloved Taste of Belgium – a waffle centered restaurant specializing in Belgian (Liège style, if we’re being specific) waffles with chic accouterments. Unfortunately for Columbus, Taste of Belgium has yet to open a brick and mortar store and their only location is inside the always-crowded North Market. Instead of a richer, denser, sweeter, and chewier waffle featuring a pearl sugar that crystallizes on the outside of the waffle into a beautiful just-caramelized delicate crisp, Belgian Iron Wafel Company’s waffle is dry and crumbly (stale?) with a texture that will glue your mouth shut. As for flavor of the original waffle, the best I can say about it is that it’s forgettable.
Every waffle is overly complex: you either order a waffle that’s infused with bourbon and topped with a quintet of unique and off-putting ingredients or you order a plain waffle. No simple banana and Nutella here. At Belgian Iron Wafel Company, your banana Nutella waffle also comes with whipped cream, bourbon-infused peanut butter and walnuts. We tried the carrot cake waffle, the brie, basil, and honey butter savory waffle, and the lemon creme/berries waffle, plus the original. Highlights of the meal included the granola on top of the yogurt and the toppings of the lemon/berry and basil/brie. All four waffle carriers maintained that vaguely stale, overly dense yet crumbly texture with minimal flavor.
The menu itself is likewise riddled with issues. I ordered the carrot cake waffle with a description that reads, “bourbon-infused genieten, maple carrot cream cheese, spiral carrot.” I didn’t know what “genieten” was but otherwise, it sounded unique and I love carrot cake so I thought I’d give it a try. (I just Googled it and “genieten” means “to enjoy” in Dutch so…that still doesn’t make any sense.) The waffle arrived covered in nuts. And raisins. And heaps of raw spiraled carrot shreds like one might find at a chain restaurant on top of an iceberg lettuce salad.
Nuts cause serious and deadly allergic reactions. You can’t just put them willy-nilly all over a meal without telling your customer; you’re just asking for a lot of wasted time and food when people have to send the item back. To me, that seems like basic restaurant 101. Restaurant 102 starts out with a lesson in working your way up to unique flavor and ingredient combinations. Otherwise, you end up with a crumbly bad waffle topped with what looked and felt like ice-cold pimento cheese and raw carrots. For breakfast. It was a carrot cake waffle and I will forever wonder why the topping was a giant glop of Philidelphia cream cheese spotted with congealed pieces of maple syrup instead of a riff on cream cheese icing.
The nail in this waffle house’s proverbial coffin was the price point. My waffle cost $9 and was the size of my palm sans fingers (3-4 inches in diameter). Before even starting my meal I knew I would leave hungry. Hannah’s $15 flight of three waffles featured waffles only slightly bigger than a silver-dollar. Please note, this restaurant does not have table service. Leslie Knope would have walked out of Belgian Iron Wafel Company and never looked back. Hannah and I walked out of Belgian Iron Wafle Company and down the street to Taste of Belgium.
Full disclosure: the dirty chai tea latte I ordered was very good and the counter service was excellent. The woman who took our orders was extremely cheery and nice.