Not that you ever asked, but for the purposes of this column let's assume you did -- in the event that "Breakfast Lore" might be a Jeopardy! category someday -- here's an unsolicited and abbreviated history of the humble waffle.
As with most things, it traces it origins to the ancient Greeks who made obleios, or flat cakes, between hot metal plates; the modern word and appearance is derived from medieval European Communion wafers; the Pilgrims brought waffles to America, but Thomas Jefferson made them popular via White House "waffle frolics" -- parties with waffles made from a French iron. About the same time, some unknown genius (is God too strong a word?) paired them with maple syrup, and the rest, as they say ...
There are Brussels waffles, Liege waffles, Belgian waffles, good ol' 'Murrican waffles, Flemish waffles (though hopefully not Phlegm-ish waffles -- yuck), Bergisch waffles, Hong Kong waffles, Pandan waffles and my favorite sounding: Stroopwafels from the Netherlands.
California's Dorsa brothers created frozen waffles in the 1930s and a few years ago, a flooded Kellogg's plant curbed the country's supply of Eggos, creating the Great American Waffle Panic of 2009 (really). Somehow we slogged through that long national nightmare only slightly more divided than usual: the left calling it a vast pancake conspiracy; the right blaming the bagel-industrial complex.
But from Scandinavia where the Swedes celebrate Vaffeldagen (Waffle Day) to the Pacific rim where the Vietnamese eat green waffles, waffle love seems universal, particularly at the two Greater Pittsburgh locations of Waffles Incaffeinated.
Founded about three years in New Brighton by a pair of Army reservists, Tajh Merriman and Josh Cuddy (currently deployed in Afghanistan -- thanks, guys), and Mr. Cuddy's wife Cassandra, a second location opened late last year at the SouthSide Works complex. It's a cute, clean space full of calming green hues, decent tunes for a breakfast place, consistently good service and well prepared quality food.
Seven signature dishes comprise the waffle menu, such as the MegaBerry -- blueberries and raspberries in the batter, fresh berries in a vanilla bean syrup on top, whipped cream and a berry reduction atop that; and the Foster's -- walnuts in the waffle and atop, bananas, vanilla bean ice cream, topped with Foster's sauce (both $8.25).
The waffles are of a medium proportion and with a slightly doughy consistency that lends itself well to whatever topping combinations you might pick.
Always preferring savory to sweet (and pork to fruit!), I like the Sausage Gravy waffle, made with a terrific house sausage gravy, green onions, and requiring a nap afterwards ($6.25). My girlfriend goes for the Eggs Benedict-inspired "Benny" -- poached eggs atop a waffle with ham, house Hollandaise and crab meat ($8.95) which is decadent deliciousness.
My girlfriend's niece inhales the Funky Monkey -- topped with copious chocolate chips, fresh bananas, a house-made peanut butter chiffon and a fudge sauce ($7.65) -- with such gusto that her mother is borderline upset with us for the massive sugar dose we gave the kid. Hey, at least there's some potassium in there too.
A full menu of other breakfast dishes from crepes to steak and eggs are offered as are omelets like the Southwest -- perfectly cooked eggs stuffed with Chorizo, sweet and hot peppers, white American cheese and fresh pico de gallo ($8.95), served with a roasted tomato and a side of home fries made from sweet and purple potatoes -- a nice touch. The Mushroom Chevre omelet, made with goat cheese and a blend of wild mushrooms is also a favorite ($8.95).
Sandwiches and salads are also served, and the South Side location has experimented with an evening "brinner" menu, but it's not regularly available right now.
Waffles Incaffeinated is at 2517 E. Carson St., South Side, and 1224 Third Ave., New Brighton. Call 412-301-1763 or 724-359-4841 for more information.
Dan Gigler: email@example.com or 412-263-2533.