Off the Waffle
EUGENE — It’s a cliché, sure, but looks really CAN be deceiving.
My first experience at Off the Waffle is one such tale.
The Eugene waffle shop relocated from its Whiteaker Neighborhood location to Willamette Street in early 2010, and until recently, it didn’t even have a sign.
As a result, on our first trip to Off the Waffle, my wife and I drove past the place twice before calling for directions.
When we did finally find it, we were greeted by a nondescript restaurant in a strip-mall setting with a few newspaper and magazine clippings in the window and interior walls covered in patron-created artwork.
I had no idea what to expect prior to walking in the front door.
After walking out of it a half hour later, I can tell you this:
You need to go to Off the Waffle.
Go there now, if possible. Put down your run-of-the-mill breakfast cereal, throw away your freezer-section toaster waffles (they’ll never taste the same after this meal, anyway) and whether it’s time for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a late-night snack, go there.
You won’t regret it.
There’s nothing flashy or fancy about Off the Waffle’s new digs. There’s a simple dining room, orders are taken at a small counter and coffee and water are situated alongside a bin full of cups on a small table nearby. The interior walls are a bright orange, those that aren’t decked with small brown bags covered with customer drawings, that is.
The atmosphere of this local-owned restaurant may be simple, but the waffles themselves are bursting with pizazz and eccentricity.
The first thing you need to know is if you’ve never had an authentic Liége waffle, you’ve never had anything this good.
In Belgium, waffles aren’t pigeonholed to breakfast items as they are in America — they are often enjoyed as snacks throughout the day and can be purchased from street carts and small shops. Liége waffles contain caramelized sugar, which makes for a bit crunchier waffle than the common breakfast waffles found in America.
And “common” is exactly what those American waffles will taste like once you’ve experienced Off the Waffle. The restaurant uses a yeast-based dough and imported Belgian pearled sugar to makes its waffles, and by themselves with just a little bit of syrup, the waffles are fantastic. But why just eat them by themselves, when Off the Waffle has a menu full of delightful and creative dishes?
The waffle menu is broken into three sections — Savory, Sweet and Inbetween. The Savory menu includes options such as The BMB (bacon, basil, havarti cheese and maple syrup), which I tried on my first visit. If the combination sounds odd, it tastes wonderful, the sweet and crispy waffle providing a perfect base for the fresh basil leaves and havarti cheese, and just the slightest amount of maple syrup drizzled on top.
My wife ordered off the Sweet menu and opted for The Giuseppe, which is topped with Nancy’s organic honey yogurt, bananas, crushed pecans and coconut flakes. It’s a meal and dessert in one, and since that first trip, my wife won’t order anything else there.
On a second visit, I dipped into the Inbetween menu and ordered The Habib, topped with chévre goat cheese, raw pistachios and freshly ground cardamom, which provided an unexpected yet pleasant flavor when mixed with the other ingredients.
Other menu highlights include The Schmooli, which has pear, smoked gouda cheese, apple sauce, crushed walnuts and freshly ground coriander; The VMB, which is topped with kalamata olives, basil, havarti cheese and maple syrup; The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, with a sunny-side-up egg, bacon and maple syrup; The Danksgiving Special, which has swiss cheese, turkey, rosemary-infused roasted garlic pureé, basil and cran-brandy coulees; and The Overachiever, topped with Belgian chocolate chips and banana.
Off the Waffle also serves omelettes and has optional waffle toppings. If you’re not feeling very adventurous, just try a plain Liége waffle with maple syrup — simple but exquisite.
Whatever your taste, try Off the Waffle.
As I said, you won’t regret it.
Off the Waffle
2540 Willamette St.
Eugene, OR 97405
Open Sunday-Thursday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.