Alibi V.23 No.38 • Sept 18-24, 2014 

Restaurant Review

Waffle Heaven

TIa B’s La Waffleria

Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
When Tia Betty Blue’s original San Mateo location opened a few years back, it quickly became clear that one of its menu items was an absolute standout. True, the huevos rancheros, made with Chimayó red, was perfection; the frito pie outpaces even the original in Santa Fe; and the tamale has certainly acquired its share of fans. But the thing that people couldn’t stop talking about was the waffle boat. Whether one went with the sweet option, piled high with lavender-accented whipped cream, or the savory, providing a bed for the exemplary huevos, the waffles made an impression.

Small wonder, then, that like James Mercer ditching the rest of the Shins, the waffles are making a go of it on their own. At Tia B’s La Waffleria, the waffles take center stage and are allowed room to experiment with form and aesthetics, resulting in the creation of surprising dishes. Imagine a timeline where humanity developed an entirely waffle-based cuisine, a sort of Belgium turned up to 11, and you’ll have an idea of what to expect from the Waffleria.

Imagine a timeline where humanity developed an entirely waffle-based cuisine, a sort of Belgium turned up to 11, and you’ll have an idea of what to expect from the Waffleria.

Waffle ranchero
Waffle ranchero
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
The restaurant is in a converted Nob Hill bungalow, which gives it a homey coziness that’s surprisingly rare in this city (though common in places like Austin). A variety of waffle irons decorate the walls, an effect somewhat reminiscent of portholes, but otherwise the decor is minimal. If it’s a lovely morning, and these days it’s fairly likely that it will be, you can take your coffee and placard outside after placing your order at the counter. There you can have a seat at a picnic table among the abundant shade from nearby elm trees and watch the cyclists on Campus Boulevard roll on past.

There are two basic strategies for acquiring your waffle-based meal. The first is a mix-and-match approach. Start with the basics: Will your waffle be of the traditional buttermilk variety? Or buckwheat? Or blue corn? Or perhaps something more exotic, like gluten-free rice flour or even coconut? Next you have some choices for items to either accompany the waffle or bake inside. Ever been frustrated at having to take separate bites of waffle and then bacon? Simple solution: Simply put the bacon in the batter, and enter a world of breakfast efficiency. Cherries, raisins, and various nuts are also available for the same treatment.

At this point you must make an important choice: Will you take a sweet or savory path with your waffle creation? If you have a sweet tooth, maple syrup, agave, various fresh fruits, and a selection of special house-made sauces (orange sour cream, port-infused cherries and even sweet goat cheese) are yours for the choosing. If you need something a bit more substantial and savory, how about carne adovada, green chile or Benito’s hot sauce? Finally, stick some eggs or ham on the side, and you’re ready to feast for somewhere between $6 and $12, depending on your choices.

Smoked-salmon topped waffle
Smoked-salmon topped waffle
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
Some may be intimidated by the many options on hand. For those, the second approach will be a comfort. These are ready-made entrées, and there are enough to keep a diner busy without ever venturing into the build-your-own menu. The kingly Azteca waffle, with chocolate and cinnamon baked into the batter, a topping of chocolate whipped cream and a touch of red chile, will set you back $8.50. It tops the “sweet” list, ruling over the likes of “pumpkin pie” (with nutmeg and cinnamon whipped cream) and (for the adventurous) “salted goat milk caramel apple.” For those looking for the savory, the options include the classic Tia B’s waffle ranchero ($9), just like the dish at the other location, and, for lunch, a smoked-salmon-topped buckwheat and sour cream waffle ($10).

With so many options, and with the overall quality of the waffles themselves being extremely high (I imagine that months of research went into finding a waffle iron that can get such a precise and perfect level of crispy-on-the-outside), and the other ingredients following suit, you can’t really go too wrong here. Except for one thing: This place is crazy crowded on the weekends, and the brunch-time hordes push the limits of the kitchen’s waffle iron engine room. If you come on a Sunday, you’d better be prepared to wait. And maybe wait some more. Much better, I think, to sneak off during the work week, when your food will arrive promptly and you’ll have pretty much the whole place to yourself. That’s waffle heaven.

Homer Simpson, that saint of middle-age doltery and unrestrained appetites, once mistook a waffle for God almighty. I’m not going to say that Tia B’s La Waffleria is quite worthy of tax-exempt church status. But I will say that I won’t blame you if you find yourself muttering “Mmm ... sacrilicious” as you take a bite of the crisp and golden morsels.

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Tía B’s La Wafflería

3710 Campus NE
492-2007
bit.ly/tiabswaffle
Hours: 7am to 2pm Monday through Friday
8am to 2pm Saturday and Sunday
Price range: $6 to $12
Vibe: A cozy heaven
Vegetarian options: Yes
Gluten free options: Yes, and plenty of them
Extras: Shady outdoor seating

Weekly Alibi recommends: Azteca, waffle rancheros and the endless delights of the build-your-own menu