First the bad news: The Belgian Waffle Crafters food truck broke down a couple of weeks ago, and owner Francois Kerckhof doesn’t expect to be able to hit the road again until early next year. He’s shooting for February.
Now the good news: You can still get your Belgian waffle fix. Just a few days before the truck hit the skids, Kerckhof had opened a brick-and-mortar location. Or maybe prefab-counter-and-sneeze-guard is a more fitting term for Belgian Waffle Crafters’ permanent location: a kiosk next to the food court at the Streets at Southpoint mall.
That news will be especially welcome for fans who have discovered that these are not the ordinary “Belgian” waffles familiar to most Americans. They’re authentic Liège waffles, named for their city of origin in French-speaking southern Belgium (which, not coincidentally, happens to be the region where Francois Kerckhof hails from). And, as aficionados will tell you, Liège waffles are a rare find this side of the Atlantic.
Liège waffles are a rare find this side of the Atlantic.
Liège waffles are made with a thick, yeast-risen batter similar to bread dough, yielding a waffle with a denser, chewier texture than the familiar Brussels style (which is also yeast-leavened in Belgium, but commonly made with baking powder in the States). The thick batter also makes for a waffle with a rustically irregular shape, its surface beaded in places with crunchy bits of caramelized sugar that result when the aptly named beads of pearl sugar that are incorporated into the batter hit the hot waffle iron.
Those aficionados will also tell you that the best way to enjoy the Liège waffle is the way most Belgians do, straight off the iron – or “naked,” as Kerckhof describes his Liège Classic, which he serves with no garnish other than a little paper-and-toothpick Belgian flag. And you certainly ought to try at least one that way.
But if you can resist ordering one of the more elaborate variations on the theme, you’ve got more willpower than I do. The most popular is the Sweet Strawberry, with homemade whipped cream and powdered sugar (and an optional drizzle of hot Belgian chocolate fudge). It’s one of the dozen topping combinations listed under “Sweet Inspirations,” where you’ll also find the Canadian Twist (maple syrup and cinnamon sugar), Banana Split (bananas, whipped cream, hot fudge and walnuts), Cinnawaffle (Speculoos cookie butter, whipped cream and cinnamon sugar), and the Oh la la! (Nutella, strawberries, banana, whipped cream and hot fudge).
You’ll find a few more temptations under “Savories” heading. I’m partial to the Bouc (goat cheese, apples, walnuts, honey and thyme), but I wouldn’t say not to try the Belvis (peanut butter, banana and bacon). Creative types can build their own waffle combination, starting with either a classic Liège waffle or the chocolate-filled Choco-Waffle and adding the toppings of their choice.
And don’t overlook the seasonal specials. The Campfire, a Belgian-accented tribute to S’mores featuring marshmallows, crumbled cookies and hot fudge on a Choco-Waffle, is a current favorite. A peppermint-and-chocolate combination is in the works for the holiday season and should hit the specials board any day now. I’m guessing that one will find plenty of customers among shoppers lucky enough to stumble across the Belgian Waffle Crafters’ new location – which, as it turns out, is as fortuitous as the timing of its opening.
Belgian Waffle Crafters
Prices: waffles $4 (Liege Classic) to $9 (Oh La La!)