If the Waffle Iron’s recent hiatus has left you in a waffle withdrawal, you’re in luck. Sam Donnell, owner and waffle wizard, has announced plans of a popup this weekend at the Basil Leaf Café, 616 W. Ninth St.
The Waffle Iron, which shares the space above John Brown’s Underground with the bar, closed temporarily in late June for kitchen renovations — a move that had been in the works long before The Waffle Iron moved in about three months ago. But Donnell says they’ve taken longer than expected (something about securing a building permit, he guesses), and with no solid reopening date in sight, he’s “aching to make waffles” again.
For Sunday’s popup (that’s from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., no reservations necessary), Donnell says he’s planning a menu of “classic Waffle Iron” selections.
“Nothing too crazy,” he promises. “It’ll be a chance for everybody to reconnect and get some damn waffles.”
The Hank Benedict (also known as the Waffle Benedict) and Donnell’s popular brown sugar maple bacon waffle are pretty much guaranteed, but much of the “summertime” menu will depend on what’s available at the Lawrence Farmers Market, Donnell says.
Right now, he’s looking forward to seeing if pal Brad Walters' space “has enough juice to handle my iron.” Yes, he really did say that.
Donnell, who says he’s still using The Waffle Iron for private events, is tentatively partnering up with Walters again for a chicken-and-waffles night at the Basil Leaf sometime down the road. According to the Basil Leaf Cafe's Facebook page, it's looking like Aug. 30, though Donnell himself didn't give out a date.
Also on the radar: a possible taco-waffle mashup event inspired by Southern California-style taquerías. Donnell’s been developing a recipe for a cornmeal-based waffle over the last few months that he says pairs nicely with Latin flavors and withstands the weight of “a big pile of carnitas on top of it.”
No word yet on when we can eat carnitas out of a waffle, but I’ll certainly keep you updated.
Breakfast at Basil Leaf
In other Basil Leaf Café news, owner/chef Brad Walters has confirmed plans of a future breakfast menu at the Italian eatery.
It’s something Walters used to offer at the Basil Leaf’s original location (a Phillips 66 gas station along Sixth Street) and has been toying with for a while since opening up at 616 W. Ninth St. in 2013.
Walters says he’s hoping to capitalize on Lawrence’s love of breakfast spots, which despite their prevalence here, often still result in overflow on weekend mornings.
“I think we can pull some of that crowd and bring something unique to the scene that you’re not going to see anywhere else,” Walters says.
He’s still tweaking the roster now, which he says will probably debut next week, but was able to offer a few tantalizing tidbits — namely, French toast made with cinnamon rolls soaked in caramel-apple brandy.
Also, expect biscuits and gravy, plus a “wide variety” of omelets and a few daily specials. There will also be self-serve stations for coffee, juice and milk.
Walters says he isn't sure about the breakfast menu's official debut. He did confirm breakfast hours, though, at least tentatively: 7 to 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Attendees of next week's Free State Festival should have their fill of music, art, film and ideas. And the festival's making sure all the foodies out there get their fill of food and drinks as well, with three dining-related events on this year's roster. Here's a breakdown:
Cocktail-crazy? Check out this rundown of the latest bartending trends from a panel of local experts from 6 to 7:15 p.m. June 23 at John Brown's Underground, 7 E. Seventh St.
"Mezcal aficionado" Adam Clary will guide participants on Oaxacan drinking culture and tradition, while 715's Katrina Weiss will discuss "history's greatest punches" and share how to create cocktails fit for hosting a large group.
Rounding out the panel is Kate Brubacher of John Brown's Underground. The festival's Lawrence Mixology description mentions her enthusiasm for "clean drinking" (think cocktails with herbs, plants, essential oils and fresh produce — much of which Brubacher grows in her own backyard), so perhaps we'll see a bit of greenery when it comes to her portion of the event.
For obvious reasons, this event is for those 21 and up. Tickets cost $25 and include "cutting-edge cocktails and nibbles."
Lawrence Eats!, a discussion of "food trends, food favorites and food fanaticism," is slated for 6 to 7:15 p.m. June 24 at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St.
This free event invites foodies to meet some of Lawrence's greatest culinary minds, including Mel Roeder of Cafe Beautiful, Matt Hyde of 715, Jesse Bonebrake of Mariscos and Rick Martin of Limestone Pizza, and learn what they're cooking up in their kitchens.
Stella Artois Presents the Free State Festival Beer Dinner
For the hardcore foodies (or those with the deeper pockets), there's the first annual Free State Festival Beer Dinner on June 26 at Maceli's Banquet Hall and Catering, 1031 New Hampshire St. Tickets to the dinner cost $100 and include a five-course meal of beer-based recipes from local chefs and food-beer pairings by Anheuser-Busch brewmaster George Reisch.
Participating chefs include Mark Gregory of Maceli's, Nick Wysong of Ingredient/Five Bar and Tables, T.K. Peterson of Merchants Pub and Plate, Dave Nigro of Maceli's and Patrick Ryan of Port Fonda, who will respectively handle the bread, soup, salad, entree and dessert courses.
Attendees will get the chance to learn about beer-meal pairings and collect new recipes to try at home, and they'll also have a chance to win door prizes.
"Beertails" commence at 5:30 p.m., while dinner will take place between 6 and 8 p.m. Visit the festival's website for a full menu.
Tickets for Lawrence Mixology and the Free State Festival Beer Dinner can be purchased online at freestatefestival.org.
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.”
About a dozen Lawrence restaurants and bars are inviting customers to drink for a good cause this week.
Negroni Week, a yearly event presented by Campari and Imbibe Magazine, enlists the help of bars around the world to mix up their favorite variations of the timeless cocktail that traditionally features gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. For each Negroni sold at participating bars, a portion of the proceeds will go toward a local charity of the bar's choice.
At Mariscos, bartenders are doing a standard Negroni with a splash of gin-barrel-aged orange bitters plus a garnish of "flamed orange twist," all served with an extra large ice cube. (The restaurant is donating $1 per drink to Just Food; a few other participants said they hadn't decided on a precise number.)
The Bourgeois Pig, John Brown's Underground and 715 are all teaming up to benefit the Lawrence Humane Society by creating different twists on the drink.
715 will feature the classic Negroni all week long, with new variations offered each day. Tuesday, bartenders will be serving up The Jasmine (with rum and Cointreau orange liqueur). The next day, it's the Perfect Sherroni (sherry instead of the standard gin, plus both sweet and dry vermouths).
On Monday, John Brown's was serving a "New Orleans twist" on the drink, with Herbsaint and orange essential oil mixed in with the traditional ingredients. The bar also plans to add a new take on the drink for a $5 special each day this week.
Other Lawrence locations, like Genovese and The Burger Stand, are sticking with the classic recipe.
From now until June 7, you can stop by any of these local establishments for a refreshing Negroni — and a bit of positive karma (the local charity each location is benefiting is in parenthesis):
• 715 (Lawrence Humane Society)
• The Burger Stand (Lawrence Humane Society)
• Genovese (Help Nepal Foundation)
• Henry's (Lawrence Humane Society)
• John Brown's Underground (Lawrence Humane Society)
• Legends (Boys & Girls Club)
• Mariscos (Just Food)
• Minsky's (March of Dimes)
• The Salty Iguana (Newhouse Shelter)
• Six Mile Tavern (Newhouse Shelter)
• The Bourgeois Pig (Lawrence Humane Society)
For more information on Negroni Week, including a full list of participants, check out the event's website.
Speakeasies may not be known as brunch destinations, Kate Brubacher admits, but she's hoping to change that at John Brown's Underground, 7 E. Seventh St.
The bar is now in its third week of offering brunch to customers, says Underground manager Brubacher, who explains the move as a way to boost food sales on weekends.
So far, she says, the response has been huge.
The brunch menu, available from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, features a handful of inventive breakfast-sandwich options, from the Jam on JB (eggs, plus fig or raspberry jam with meat and cheese on Texas toast) to the Mac Stack, a mixture of eggs, macaroni and cheese bites, and meat and cheese on Texas toast. There's also the Bourbon Bacon Waffle — Brubacher's favorite — and something called "French Toast in a Jar."
As always, booze is readily available — though the meals come with a choice of coffee, orange juice or tomato juice.
• • •
Popular downtown eatery Limestone Pizza is now open on Sundays, co-owner Debbie Rascoll says.
Plenty of downtown businesses are open Sundays, she says, so why not Limestone? Rascoll hopes the expanded hours will better accommodate "late risers" from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Don't expect the pizza joint to turn into a full-fledged pancake house, though. Limestone is sticking with what it does best, mostly. In lieu of an official menu, the restaurant offers rotating specials like biscuits-and-gravy pizza and other brunch-y creations.
"We're not trying to be a breakfast place," Rascoll says. "We're starting small, trying to figure things out right now."
Try something unusual or know of something interesting going on at a Lawrence restaurant? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me on Twitter @hlavacekjoanna. For more local food and restaurant news, click here.