SINCE ARRIVING IN THE U.S., the term Belgian waffle has broadened to include enormous breakfast platters, usually slathered with syrup and eaten with a knife and fork, in the close company of bacon. In 1962, fairgoers devoured millions of rectangular Brussels-style waffles at Century 21. But the signature variation from this waffle-loving European nation hails from the eastern town of Liege. Palm-sized gaufres de liège are usually sold from trucks or shop windows around Belgium; they’re made with yeast and a special pearl sugar that caramelizes on the waffle iron to form a crunchy, sticky glaze that protects the doughy sweetness within. Just a few places carry on this tradition in Seattle.
Arosa In an unassuming coffee shop across from Swedish Medical Center, Swiss-born owner Hans Riechsteiner (just “Hans” to his regulars) presses $2.25 “snack waffles,” his unadorned, coaster-size Liege waffles. They don’t have much visual come-hither, but they come the closest to Belgium’s addictive walkabout versions. Each bite tastes almost cakelike, thanks to a batter made with vanilla, honey, and a little bit of cinnamon. Try to finagle one fresh off the industrial steel-plated iron, when the caramelized sugar glaze has the most crackle. Riechsteiner sold his original Arosa location in Madison Valley in 2002, but current owner Michelle Chattin continues his waffle tradition. 1310 Madison St, First Hill, 206-329-5881. 3121 E Madison St, Madison Valley, 206-324-4542
Sweet Iron (pictured) These waffles aren’t made for mobile consumption; most come heaped with elaborate toppings, including bacon, ice cream, or strawberries and whipped cream—the same combination served at the world’s fair. The waffles are on the large side; no crispy exterior, but the special sugar adds a nice texture. The spare downtown shop’s surprise home run is the basil and brie combo, with thin Dali-esque slices of cheese melting into the pockets and that sugar coating pleasantly permeating every cheese-laden bite. 1200 Third Ave, Downtown, 206-682-3336. 4518 University Way NE, University District, 206-545-4865; sweetironwaffles.com
Meander’s Kitchen On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays only, this delightfully ramshackle West Seattle diner does a special menu of Belgian-style Liege waffles. Owner Miranda Krone uses a yeast batter with pearl sugar and tweaks the preparation to fit our American concept of breakfast, from the slightly larger size to the decadent versions that come stuffed with bacon, dipped in dark chocolate (or both!), or piled with peanut butter and fried bananas. Syrup is mandatory on the simpler preparations, but these memorable weekend waffles have the yeasty flavor of fresh-baked bread with the faintest sugar crunch on the outside. 6032 California Ave SW, West Seattle, 206-932-9840