Waffle Iron taking things slow at new location, with sweet and savory surprises in store
When it comes to mastering the art of waffles — or, to clarify, a waffle house — it’s best to take things slowly.
That’s the approach Sam Donnell’s taking over at The Waffle Iron, which opened in its new location at 7 E. Seventh St. four weeks ago. Foodies may remember the original home of the waffle business at Decade Coffee Shop in East Lawrence, where it operated from January to early May.
“This went from my first pop-up to a full-blown location in three months,” says Donnell, the Waffle Iron's owner/chef. “There’s still a lot I’m learning.”
Donnell’s sharing his new home in the upstairs space of the speakeasy-themed bar John Brown’s Underground. Thanks to the pairing, customers can now enjoy Donnell’s signature waffles with brunch-y cocktails such as bloody marys and mimosas from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
John Brown's, which mainly operates on the basement level of the building, occasionally uses the upstairs space — an expanse of old wood floors with a golden-hued tin ceiling, a chandelier and giant windows overlooking Seventh Street — for private events in the evenings, though Donnell says bar staffers are letting him use it for night-time events once a month.
Donnell is currently in talks with Basil Leaf Cafe and Hank Charcuterie to host a “chicken and waffles night” at some point this summer. Also on the radar: Donnell says John Brown's has plans to install a fully functioning commercial kitchen in the space sometime in the next few months, at which point he’ll temporarily close the shop. (The Waffle Iron will also be closed the last weekend of June, Donnell says.)
As of right now, Donnell and his staff (he’s still the only cook cranking out waffles on the restaurant’s two waffle irons, though he’s got someone to wash dishes and John Brown's bartenders helping him out with drinks) are serving “just the classics,” though he plans on debuting more of his zany creations once he gets more settled in.
The popular Hank Benedict — essentially a waffle topped with eggs Benedict, which you may remember as the Waffle Benedict from Off the Beaten Plate a few months back — has moved from Fridays only to being available Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Sweeter waffle varieties like vanilla bean maple, blueberry lemon curd and s’mores have made appearances, too.
Donnell says business has been slower than it was at Decade so far, which he’s ultimately OK with. Had he opened a month or two earlier with the KU crowd still in town, it may have been too much to handle in the midst of figuring out all the logistics that come with opening a new restaurant — especially in a space that has never housed one before, he points out.
“Without students here, it’s allowed me to open in a quiet way. I’m taking it slow, and I want it to grow naturally,” Donnell says. After all, “It was only this week that I got a coffee grinder.”