Eugene’s waffle imperialists
Eugene’s Waffle Imperialists
by R.L. Stollar, EDN
“And wafres, pipyng hoot out of the gleede” – Chaucer, The Miller’s Tale
You can’t help but notice the giant orange afro that graces the front of Off the Waffle on Willamette St. Like a guardian angel sent from the 1960′s to watch over owners’ Dave and Omer Orian, it beckons and tempts you to try the creations within. Really, though, the orange afro is a publicity stunt. “We thought it might get people’s attention,” says Omer. And apparently it’s working just fine.
Dave and Omer have been in the waffle business since 2008. Their love began, though, when they were children in Belgium. As they got older, they decided to take their love public. They began as a small waffle shop in the west jefferson neighborhood, then expanded to a food cart in Eugene on 13th St.. The business was becoming successful enough that they consolidated both of those and moved to their current (and only) location a couple years later, commandering the old Baskin Robbins spot at 2540 Willamette St.
Off the Waffle’s specialty is “authentic liege waffles.” For waffle newbies, it is important to know there are many versions of waffles. What you usually find at, say, IHOP or Denny’s is just scratching the surface. What we know as a waffle — a batter-based breakfast cake cooked in a distinctive iron — originated in ancient Egypt.
Made with emmer, a primitive wheat, the Egyptian waffle was a “wafer,” an unleavened bread taken during a religious ritual and treated as the body of Osiris, an Egyptian deity. The wafer became a part of Christian rituals as well, stamped with a honeycomb pattern to appear as interlocking crosses.
In the Middle Ages, these wafers became a fasting food sold by monasteries. As their popularity grew, wafers became less religious and more commercial. By the 1600′s they were served with spices, leavening, jellies—luxurious additions that made the wafer a dessert. Soon street vendors, called waferers, could be found on every street corner.
The modern waffle is the leavened form of a wafer. And it takes many forms: the thin American waffle, the plump Belgian, the syrup-filled Stroopwafels in the Netherlands, the yolky Hong Kong grid cake, and, of course, the Belgian liege waffle. The liege, Off the Waffle’s claim to fame, is an adaptation of brioche. Pearl sugar is folded into the dough and caramalizes as it is baking in the cast iron waffle machine. As Off the Waffle says, “This caramelization is the secret.”
But it’s not just sugar that makes the orange fro’s wares such an attraction. It’s also the amazing diversity of flavors that Dave and Omer add. Where else can you find “Goat in the Headlights,” a sweet waffle topped with savories like goat cheese, fresh basil, and smoked paprika?
Or “The Felony,” a concoction of mango sorbetto, coconut flakes, bananas, and whipped cream? With over 16 waffle creations, 3 flatbread sandwiches, 30 toppings, and daily omelette specials, Off the Waffle is an experience unique to Eugene. Not to mention they have their own arcade game in the building.
Dave and Omer are optimistic about the future. Omer says, “We envision a waffle empire of sorts.” Whether or not that empire happens soon is unknown. But they’re definitely well on their way to making waffle lovers of everyone in Eugene.
You can visit Off the Waffle at 2540 Willamette St., Eugene, OR, 97405. To contact them, call (541) 515-6926 or visit their website at http://www.offthewaffle.com.