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.
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).