There’s no question that What the Waffle offers fun, affordable eats
Open since last summer, this community-minded King-Lincoln business dishes up everything from traditional breakfast offerings to meatball sandwiches constructed with its namesake waffles
In a nutshell, What the Waffle sells food that’s fun to eat for terrific prices. Examine that shell, though, and you’ll discover that What the Waffle is newsworthy for numerous more reasons, too.
It’s a Black female-owned business in the King-Lincoln District whose owner, Gayle Troy, champions community-minded causes and makes it a point to employ and train young women aging out of the foster care system.
Although it’s a compact operation that only serves takeout food, What the Waffle — which opened last summer amid widespread protests prompted by the police killing of George Floyd — offers an impactful interior enlivened by the work of artist Adriane McMillon.
McMillon’s skillful contributions include paintings of Martin Luther King Jr. on one knee (echoing a famous photograph taken during the Selma to Montgomery march in Alabama), Rosa Parks waiting at a bus stop, and Muhammad Ali pierced with arrows echoing Renaissance depictions of St. Sebastian. McMillon also designed a large chalkboard wall with “WAFFLE” written in glittering dimensional letters on which customers can express themselves.
The eatery’s soundtrack, which usually features tunes played in the key of smooth jazz, sets an easygoing tone commensurate with the upbeat and super-friendly place’s amusing name and menu. Make that menus — multiple versions are offered for breakfast, lunch, weekend-only brunch, sides and more. (I suggest scrutinizing all menus online before arriving.)
Whenever and whatever you order, though, expect a bargain and, well, waffles. See, the restaurant's namesake items — scratch-made if rather soft but good-tasting (malty, with a hint of cinnamon), deeply pouched and sizable Belgian-style waffles — appear in nearly every dish.
A waffle wedge serves as an upgrade to plain old toast in one of the best deals in town for steak & eggs. Just $13 bought that waffle segment plus a juicy piece of good grill-marked strip steak, two eggs, house breakfast potatoes (roasted redskin cubes), al dente roasted Brussels sprouts and a beef-compatible creamy horseradish sauce.
The What the Benny ($12) was another large and hard-to-beat value of a brunch dish. This ocean-kissed play on eggs Benedict had a properly poached egg, loads of flaky baked salmon, tangy hollandaise sauce, fish roe, breakfast potatoes, an overachieving arugula salad and, stepping in for English muffins, flavorful herbed waffles.
Waffles replace bread products in other dishes, too. These include: A heavy-duty meatball sandwich (The Tony, $7) that was hard to handle but easy to like with its homemade meatballs, marinara and multiple cheeses — some crisped into frico; and an extremely loose interpretation of the classic open-faced Louisville-born sandwich called the Hot Brown ($7.25), here made with a full waffle topped with tender grilled chicken slabs and crisp bacon strips drenched in a nacho-esque cheese sauce.
Waffle bits even show up as croutons — surprisingly crisp, light and successful ones — in the Raykale Caesar Salad ($5.50). A waffle specialist might sound like an odd place to get a Caesar salad, but this was a respectable rendition, with relatively tender greens enhanced by a lemony, creamy and pleasantly pungent dressing.
A waffle specialist might sound like a fine place to get a bacon-egg-and-cheese waffle “sandwich” ($7.45), or chicken and waffles (The Waddy, $9.50), and it was. Both were enjoyable, but I’d give the edge to the dish with the excellent chicken tenders.
If you just want a waffle ($5), it’ll arrive dusted in powdered sugar and with a small container of DIY syrup. Characteristically, it’s plenty of food, but if you’re sharing or are super-hungry, the cheesy grits ($2.50) is a rib-sticking side dish that is — also characteristic for this restaurant — easy-to-like and irresistibly inexpensive.
What the Waffle
695 E. Long St., King Lincoln District