First off, Jan Vandenbroeck would like to clear up any waffle confusion that may be out there: those big, round, fancy waffles ubiquitous at brunch are not the real thing. They may call them Belgian, but that’s a bit of a catchall for any big, round, fancy waffle that doesn’t pop out of a toaster. A hair stylist-cum-waffle master, Vandenbroeck is here to set Toronto straight at Waffle Bar, his cute new shop in the Upper Beach. “When I was a kid, growing up in Flemish Londerzeel,” he told us, “waffles were a snack we ate all the time. It was our popcorn when we went to the movies.” And it’s these crunchy, not too sweet, Liège-style sugar waffles that Vandenbroeck is serving today.
Since 2005, Vandenbroeck has been cutting locks by day and pumping out waffles—5,000 per month—by night for private functions, events and farmers markets, on a single machine he brought into Canada in his luggage. He met his business partner Valerie Bain when he was recommended to her as a stylist. And while the corporate events, catering and markets still make up the bulk of their business, opening a storefront lets them do something fun and unique in this quickly gentrifying neighbourhood.
Unlike the waffles North Americans are more familiar with, these start as a yeast-based dough, not a runny batter (the recipe is from a pastry chef in Liège). Vandenbroeck and Bain make huge batches of the stuff, using a handful of simple ingredients; it’s then proofed, formed into balls and pressed to order in a special €2,400 Belgian-made waffle iron that presses out golden, crunchy waffles ($3) in 90 seconds flat. As for ice cream, they’re scooping Greg’s into waffle sliders ($7 for 3) and waffle cones ($3)—house-made, of course. Vandenbroeck continues to experiment with a Brussels-style waffle—which is more like the familiar, poured-batter kind. Once that’s perfected, he’ll be turning his attention to beignets aux pommes (deep-fried apple fritters), which will only be available at the outdoor markets. But before that happens, there’s the August 19 Leslieville Farmers Market bacon festival to attend, at which, yes, there will be bacon waffles with gooey cheese, topped with a farm-fresh egg. We predict lineups.
Waffle Bar, 281 Scarborough Rd. 647-748-9235, thewafflebar.ca