When I was a boy my mother deemed waffles and ice cream an official meal, which is why I still love my mother and why I still love waffles and ice cream. But a good waffle, like a good mother, can be hard to find, which is why Wafels & Dinges has opened its first shop that doesn’t move.
Dinges, pronounced “ding-ess,” which is Flemish for “things,” are the toppings that you can get on your wafels. Wafels, pronounced “wah-fuls,” which is Flemish for “waffles,” are Belgian waffles. Belgians speak Flemish. New Yorkers are learning.
The main wafels are the Liège, which is “soft, sweet & chewy,” and the Brussels, which is “light n’crispy.” Once you have selected your wafel, you move on to selecting your dinges. Standard dinges include maple syrup and butter, but the dinges go way beyond standard.
One dish premiering at the café is the Oh Oh Serrano, which is a “flavor fest on a grilled Brussels wafel with serrano ham, asiago cheese, & fig spread.” Another is the 2nd Street Salmon Special, which loads your Brussels wafel with smoked salmon, capers, red onion, and lemon-dill sour cream.
These join things familiar to truck patrons, like the wafel with pulled pork, and the wafel with Bauernschinken ham, Raclette cheese, and scallions. Also things like the World’s Fair wafel, topped with strawberries, whipped cream, and powdered sugar, just like the ones that were the hit of the ’64 fair.
My mother never stocked Asiago cheese or lemon-dill sour cream, let alone Bauernschinken ham or pulled pork. So I ordered waffles and ice cream. I chose chocolate ice cream on a Brussels wafel. I knew it wouldn’t match Breyers on a Downyflake. But it came remarkably close.
Still, at least in New York, Belgian waffles have a checkered history. They’ve never had a golden moment like, say, Belgian fries. Over a decade ago I wrote about a new place called Bulgin’ Waffles Café. It was soon toast. Then again, its special was the Hot Waffle in a Bag.
More recently, there was a place called Go For a Bite, whose two specialties were its “Original Belgium Waffles” and its Cream Puffs. It, too, went up in smoke. Curiously, it has been replaced by a restaurant that serves only oatmeal, which is called, suitably, OatMeals.
Acccording to Sophie Grant, the manager of Wafels & Dinges, waffles are a tough sell largely because of Breyers and Downyflake. “It’s one of those meals people take for granted,” she explained. “You can get them at any diner and have them at home in the freezer.”
“What sets ours apart is the quality,” she added. “It’s as close to a real Belgian waffle as you can get. We chose one thing to do really well.” That choice was made by Thomas DeGeest, the Wafels & Dinges founder, who sold his first wafel in 2007 from a 1968 Chevy truck.
Thomas’s triumphs since then have included popularizing spekuloos spread, a Belgian topping that looks like peanut butter and tastes like a gingerbread man.
Awhile ago I got it on a Liège wafel from a Wafels & Dinges truck.
I’m trying to get my mother to deem that another official meal.Get off the street at Wafels & Dinges, 209 East Second Street, between avenues B and C, in New York City.
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