Waffle Stop opened Jan. 17 in Tacoma’s Proctor neighborhood and with that, the waffle selection in this town improved dramatically.
It’s unusual to see a locally owned restaurant take a micro-focus concept — serving waffles and pretty much only waffles — and roll with it on the level Waffle Stop has.
There’s flashy merchandise. Servers wear branded t-shirts and name tags. The mugs carry the restaurant’s polished logos.
It looks corporate enough that I wonder if diners ask if Waffle Stop is part of a chain. It’s not. It’s the creation of Samuel Larsen and his family. Larsen runs the day-to-day operations with advisory help from his wife Aubrey and his parents, Mark and Gayle Larsen. Gayle grew up in Tacoma and Aubrey grew up in Fircrest.
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As Samuel Larsen said in an interview in April just before the project began, “It started as a dinner table topic, but then we got serious about it.
“My dad’s owned a business. I worked in finance before this. We’ve always wanted to do something like this as a family.”
It worked. They built it. And the crowds have flocked to it. On Sunday, the restaurant ran out of food. Through the weekend, they’ll be open 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Regular hours of 6:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. start next week.
My advice is to wait a few weeks to visit, but here’s what you need to know for a first visit. This paper’s policy is to avoid criticism of food and service in a restaurant’s first month.
Concept: Slick and well conceived, from the themed menu of all-things-waffles to the merchandise for sale by the register. This is a sit-down restaurant with table service.
Although it carries the feel of a breakfast diner, and even though it was near capacity on my visit, I felt invited to linger over my coffee. Excellent service. Good first impressions are lasting impressions.
Design: Inviting. Close to capacity, noise was tolerable, although noticeable. A row of booths anchor the center of the dining room with banquette seating along one wall and a dine-in counter on the opposite wall. Seating for 79.
More on design: Sharp! California-based design firm Playground Agency designed the interior. Stylish scoop-style chairs, natural wood zigzagging across the walls, bright overhead lighting, lots of natural wood tones.
Opening menu: Six a la carte sweet breakfast waffles ($6 to $11), six breakfast-entree combos that pair waffles with eggs and/or breakfast meats ($10 to $17), two waffle bowls with gravy, eggs and cheese ($14), two versions of chicken and waffles ($15), two salads ($11 to $14), three scrambles ($11 to $14), a bacon cheeseburger or bacon-and-egg waffle melt sandwich ($12 to $15), two variations on fries ($9 to $14) and waffle bites with sweet sauces ($12). More menu items will be added next week.
Waffles go deep into the theme. Salads have croutons made from waffles. Fries are waffle-cut.
The coffee: Full espresso menu with beans from Caffe D’arte.
Juice: Fresh-squeezed orange juice ($4), fresh-squeezed lemonade ($4) and more.
Breakfast booze: Mimosa, screwdriver, bloody Mary, morning mojito and electric lemonade ($9 to $10).
Safe for kids? Absolutely. Great-looking kids menu with a strawberry waffle, waffle bites, grilled cheese, chicken tenders ($5 to $7).
Gluten-free? Look to the scrambles. No gluten-free waffles.
Those waffles: Two kinds. A Southern waffle is mostly for the savory dishes and is made with a buttermilk batter with honey and stone-ground cornmeal. The sweet pearl sugar waffles are made with a yeasted batter similar to a liege waffle. Because it rises overnight, if the restaurant runs out, it’s out for the day.
The syrup: The house syrup is a blend (with no high fructose corn syrup), not pure maple syrup. Maple-bacon syrup, honey syrup (made with agave) and sugar-free syrup also served. Larsen is looking for an affordable pure maple syrup that won’t require a large upcharge.
Get the: Nashville chicken and waffles ($15). Double-stacked chicken breasts had a shattery-crisp breading and enough spicy heat to leave a tingle, but a bit more tempered than real-deal hot chicken in Tennessee. Served with a sweet waffle. Also, the strawberry cheesecake was an oversized tower of fluffy cheesecake and whipped cream atop that delicious sweet waffle embedded with pearl sugar ($10).