Restaurant Review By Jin Chong
In a food world characterized by maximalist TikTok trends and chaos cooking, it may feel as though certain beloved dishes are at risk of being pushed too far and losing their essence—in other words, what made us fall in love with them in the first place. Oftentimes, dining can simply be a matter of wanting to reexplore the familiar and seek that which provides a sense of comfort. It’s in these instances where even the most basic food preparations can have the most to offer.
Breakfast foods seem to be somewhat immune to the increasing overcomplication of food, if only because most dishes consist of a few elements to begin with. I mean, there’s only a handful of ways one could put a spin on scrambled eggs before it starts to resemble something else entirely.
There’s an implicit sanctity to this lineup of carby, stick-to-your-ribs fare which people are more or less hardwired to crave in order to kickstart the day. In that regard, Waffles and Whatnot smartly appeals to its wide client base by honoring one of the most fundamental, yet surprisingly versatile breakfast dishes. While their breakfast renditions mostly color within the lines, it’s the brand’s unique identity and focus on community that distinguishes them from the crowd.
For instance, take signs of Waffles and Whatnot’s character strewn throughout the restaurant. You’ll notice bright red picnic tables atop a vast swath of green-colored flooring as a couple of details clamor for attention. This abstract take on an outdoor dining setup, made complete with the façade of a food truck painted over their back wall as an homage to their roots, is a little zany, yet comes across as refreshingly authentic and true to the spirit of this venture. Imaginative chalk art and words of inspiration by the CEO and founder create a family-friendly vibe along with the scribblings of happy customers scrawled on the walls.
It took some time to wrap my head around the menu on my first visit. There’s a lot to take in, from the puzzling inclusion of eye-rolling emojis featured at the end of certain options to the names of their dishes themselves and their descriptions. One even appears to be named after a regular by the name of Brian Sison—with a vague explanation and not a single mention of ingredients, I was left mystified as to what exactly this was.
But I settled for something a little more conventional by ordering the Naughty BAYB Mama. How could I ignore the seductive promise of a “50 shades of delicious waffle?” In reality, I was faced with a signature chicken and waffle combo drizzled with honey while I was informed that the naughty element suggests the waffle selection is appointed by the chef. On top of me not knowing how my waffle would turn out, I sheepishly replied “yes” when asked if I wanted some whipped cream. I was flying blind, but it was exciting at the same time.
Fortunately, I only had to wait around 10 minutes to discover that the waffle was tamer than the fiendish gut-buster I was expecting. The beautifully golden brick of a waffle was sturdy and able to support a fresh array of berries, two types of syrup, and a dense scoop of whipped cream. On the other side of the plate were four giant chicken strips with flaky breading fried to a crisp texture along with some hot sauce for dipping.
Between the dish’s two halves, the waffle was arguably the more successful. Besides its robust exterior, the batter was delicately sweetened with a fluffy consistency. The chef seemed to have opted for a sauce duo of maple caramel and a white syrup that might have either been sweetened condensed milk or white chocolate—hard to say. Theoretically, these elements could have led to nothing but a sugar overload, but the subtle differences in sweetness and texture contrasted in ways to make for a balanced, not at all cloying treat.
The fried chicken strips were obviously meant to be the yin to the waffle’s yang, but the strips weren’t nearly as boldly seasoned as I had hoped. Although the coating was consistently crisp and zhuzhed up with a light drizzle of honey, the meat was ultimately dry and a little tough, especially with the skinnier portions. Another downside is that these tenderloins didn’t appear to have been brined for very long, if at all. They tasted as though they were lacking in soul, which made me all the more appreciative of the inclusion of the bright hot sauce which was almost essential to perk up the bland chicken.
At least my wife enjoyed her low-carb waffles. She offered a sample of this alternative spin with its batter made with almond, coconut, and arrowroot flour which was well-browned and simply adorned with another fatty scoop of whipped cream and a side of syrup. Not exactly beauty queen material, but rather more of a homely appearance. What really gave this waffle legs were the earthy, nutty flavors along with a heartier texture. There was no sacrifice in flavor to be found here—if anything, this could be seen as somewhat of an upgrade to the standard variety.
With so much mystery that lingered regarding The Brian Sison, I had no choice but to return to Waffles and Whatnot the next day to uncover what uber-creative monstrosity lay in wait. Would it be sweet or savory? Either way, I was game as I simply wanted another taste of warm waffles in addition to trying the garlic mac and cheese I previously noticed.
Turns out, The Brian Sison was a waffle chicken sandwich of the highest order in that it was stacked with bacon, a griddled slice of cheese, and spinach. The finishing touch? A side of sausage gravy and hot sauce ostensibly meant for pairing with the buttery sandwich. This time, the bacon and cheese went a long way toward boosting the overall seasoning levels and I didn’t find any issues with the chicken this time. Another detail I noticed is that the waffles were flecked with a green herb of some sort, pushing this even further into savory territory even with a faint hint of syrup.
As for the mac and cheese? It was smooth, creamy, and moderately tangy—whiter in color and more reminiscent of an alfredo pasta, but it was rich and it went down easy regardless.
Waffles and Whatnot’s success rides on the belief that breakfast foods are the most time-honored and widely beloved of all meals. Their creativity shines through their excellent waffles which function as a blank canvas for an endless amalgamation of toppings. Their brand philosophy helps compensate for any minor deficiencies by serving up a heaping dose of fun with each experience. And what are waffles if not highly adaptable vehicles for fun?
Waffles and Whatnot is located at 500 Muldoon Rd, Unit 5 and is open from 8am — 3pm Wednesday — Sunday.