By Frank Sabatini Jr.
Joseph Kraft recalls feeling cheated in life prior to eating his first Belgian waffle at the age of 30, saying it didn’t compare to any waffles he ate growing up – and certainly not to the frozen brands you heat in a toaster.
The revelation was triggered specifically from a recipe he made for Liege waffles, which are constructed from yeast dough and pearl beet sugar. Similar in texture to brioche, they’re exactly the kind you’ll encounter at his hidden outdoor eatery, Wow Wow Waffle.
The signage is understated, although 30th Street Laundry marks the spot. An alley to the right of it leads to a rear patio replete with sprawling greenery, a tented makeshift kitchen, and a mish mash of tables strewn with books on travel, cycling and food.
I’ve driven by dozens of times since Wow Wow opened in 2014, and never knew this little waffle paradise existed until seeing it listed online.
The business was originally founded in 2011 by entrepreneur Todd Casselberry, who began selling the waffles at farmers markets in Northern California. He eventually partnered with Kraft and his wife, Amy, as they branched into farmers markets locally. They currently operate stands in Oceanside on Thursdays; Poway on Saturdays; and La Jolla on Sundays.
The menu at their 30th Street space features sweet and savory waffles. And that’s it. You’ll find nothing more here than house-made lemonades, pour-over coffee and Tazo teas. If you’re craving eggs, a sign at the order table recommends you head to nearby Cardamom Café & Bakery, Lucky’s or The Mission for them.
Although if you’re shakin’ for bacon, the menu obliges with the No. 7 waffle, a top seller crowned with creamy, crumbled goat cheese, mashed avocado and a couple ounces of thick bacon coated deliciously in brown sugar. The friend in our threesome who ordered it proclaimed it was more filling than she expected, and that it harbored enough protein to leave her forgetting about omelets and scrambles.
My other tablemate, however, would have preferred eggs in one form or another. He ordered the “market special” waffle. Goat cheese, strawberries and pink sea salt on top wasn’t enough to constitute a full breakfast for him. A side of guacamole helped, although droplets of chocolate-infused balsamic flooding a few of the waffle’s crevices made it all the more dessert-y for his liking.
So I shared with him my turkey-melt waffle sandwich, which included an unctuous layer of smoked mozzarella as well as arugula and tender, roasted red peppers. We loved the interplay between the mildly sweet waffles and the savory ingredients. But it left us further imagining how exquisite these semi-dense beauties would taste with eggs between them — or ham or chorizo or salmon for that matter.
“We used eggs at one point, but our kitchen is so tight that we didn’t want to deal anymore with cooking them for every other waffle,” Kraft said, hinting that eggs might return to the menu after an onsite commercial kitchen is installed this summer.
“We’ll expand the savory items,” he assured, adding that “we’re trying to figure out a good non-fried chicken recipe to go with the waffles.”
For now, nearly every waffle option includes a sweet component, either from fresh fruit or locally sourced Jackie’s Jams paired to French brie cheese (the No. 8).
The “chocolate lovers” waffle is particularly toothsome. Sticks of Belgian chocolate are embedded into the dough, resulting in a gooey filling that oozes out as you fork along. Dusted in powdered sugar and augmented by fresh berries, you get two small squares per order.
Other choices include the “fresh & light” topped with berries and house-made whipped cream; the “cookie butter” using Belgian ginger bread cookies; and the “Greek parfait” embellished with Greek yogurt, berries and wildflower honey.
The lemonades are clean and refreshing. Available plain or flavored with pureed fruits, they share in common highly filtered H2O from The Water Lady store in North Park, plus regionally grown lemons and sensible measures of pure cane sugar, just enough to quell the pucker factor. For this non-coffee drinker, it was a rewarding kick-start for getting out of bed earlier than usual on a weekend morning.
Wow Wow operates from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays. We got there five minutes before the gate opened to a Sunday-morning line that formed quickly. But tables turned at a decent clip; as well they should when eating at a place built around a single food item served with finesse and simplicity.
—Frank Sabatini Jr. is the author of “Secret San Diego” (ECW Press), and began his local writing career more than two decades ago as a staffer for the former San Diego Tribune. You can reach him at email@example.com.