Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Waffles That Nearly Float Off Your Plate

Any then there were two.

The food-related memories I have from my childhood are actually quite sparse. It wasn't until well into my adult life that I began appreciating chefs and restaurants who take the time to offer something unique and delicious to their customers. While there have been many times when I've returned to a cherished restaurant from my childhood only to discover that the food really isn't as good as I remembered it, it's a pleasure to find one where the current dining experience lives up to the halcyon days of my youth.

As a child, I remember eating at numerous Wally Waffle locations throughout the area. Unfortunately over the decades, this number has slowly dwindled down to only two remaining locations, one on Locust Street in downtown Akron by the hospital and the other just a five minute drive on the corner of Eastwood Road and Rt. 91 in Tallmadge. Google shows a third location on Marion Avenue, but I tried finding this location one time and concluded that it simply didn't exist.

Today I decided to go for a late lunch / early breakfast. Here is the sign at the Tallmadge location:

I arrived around 11:15 am or so only to be greeted by a number of people milling around outside the front door. This is very typical on the weekends if you go after about 10:30 or so. I had a 20 minute wait and since it was fairly pleasant outside, I didn't mind enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. Wally Waffle is only open for breakfast and lunch, so don't plan on going after 3 pm on the weekends.

Here is a shot of the front of their menu:

And a shot of the condiments at the end of the table:

As with most of the meals at Wally Waffle have consisted, I usually start out with a nice steaming cup of decaf and a glass of water:

The coffee always tastes exceptionally fresh when I go, and the refills are generous and quite often. The regular coffee does have a better flavor than the decaf, but living with an afternoon of the jitters wasn't my idea of a pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

The menu is broken up into typical breakfast fare and they offer luncheon items such as salads and sandwiches as well. But, I daresay that if you are going to go to a place that has "waffle" in its name, you can be pretty certain that the place has a specialty. Wally's offers three different waffle batters, the original using malted flour, the oat bran (which is what I normally get), and the better day. All batters are made at the locations, although the dry ingredients for the original batter come already pre-mixed. They simply add the wet ingredients, margarine, milk, and eggs on-site before service. I couldn't get my server to admit it, but I would surmise that they separate the eggs and beat the whites separately before folding it back into the batter. They'd have to in order to get a waffle to be this light.

You can get your waffle topped in a variety of ways, from simply adding margarine and syrup to going with fresh fruit and a little sweetened whipped cream. The thing about the original waffle that makes it so unique is how light it is. Not in terms of calories, but in terms of the sense of fullness you get from eating one. All the waffles that come out of the kitchen cover the entire plate, so it isn't like you are getting a smaller portion size. Obviously the oat bran and the better day waffles have a much heavier batter and thus will definitely fill you up.

Today I decided to go with the classic waffle topped with fresh strawberries and bananas and finished off with sweetened whipped cream:

This was heavenly. The waffle batter itself is just barely sweetened and the combination from the malted flour and the touch of vanilla make this a tasty dish even if it weren't topped with anything else. Between the mound of whipped cream and the fresh fruit, syrup wasn't even required to gobble this up. In fact, I think that adding syrup would've complicated the pure, sweet flavors that made this dish so good.

With my oat bran waffle, I normally get a side of bacon, extra crispy. Today, however, I decided to go with another favorite, Wally Fries "loaded":

"Loaded" Wally Fries are a wonderful combination of shredded potato hash browns that have been beautifully cooked and crisped on one side topped with grilled onions and peppers and finally finished with the cheese of your choice. Today it was Swiss. Perfectly seasoned, the textural combination of the crispy potatoes on the one side, the creamy potatoes on the other is a wonderful example of contrasts. This worked quite well in place of the bacon I normally would order.

I've tried many of the other menu items over the years and I can honestly say that I've never had a bad dish. But if you make the trip all the way down to Akron just to try Wally Waffle, you must at least try the classic waffle. It really is that good. My hope is that no additional locations close as that would truly be the loss of an Akron classic.

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