March 1st, 2012
The Waffle Bus: Everyday I’m Wafflin’
In 6 Words: Trill, Wafflin', S'mores, Fryders, Quirk,
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple years, you’ve probably noticed that Houston has become quite the little hub for food trucks of all shapes and sizes. Some may call it a fad. I call it fantastic, as freshly painted short buses and converted mobile homes belly up to our favorite watering holes and start dishing out originality. But when the street food crowd recently started to hum in anticipation of the newest kid on the block, it was with a certain degree of skepticism that I set out to track The Waffle Bus down.
The purveyor of “Gourmet Waffle Sandwiches,” was, I feared, the beginning of the end. Had the food truck market become so saturated that proprietors were now being forced to come up with gimmicky culinary tricks to win the attention of mobile foodies? After hunting down the bus in question and devouring every waffle I could get my penitent little paws on, I bowed before the Waffle Bus and admitted that I had been wrong, oh so very wrong, to ever doubt.
I arrived during the Grand Opening of The Waffle Bus outside Bo Concept on Westheimer and was immediately put at ease by the sight of the contented (if slightly calorie-stoned) expressions of customers lucky enough to have already been served their waffle creations. But even more promising was my perusal of the Waffle Bus menu, packed with enough variety and quirkiness to satisfy even the most leery of potential patrons.
Offerings included a Buttermilk Fried Chicken Waffle Sandwich, a Waffle Burger, and for the more sophisticated palates, a Smoked Salmon Waffle. Want some sliders? Too bad, at The Waffle Bus they’re called Fryders (cute, eh?) and they’re served up with waffle fries where the buns should be. And oh, oh the glory of the dessert options… but we’ll get to that.
We placed our order and proceeded to loiter around the bright red bus, covetously eying the contents of other patron’s plates. Forty minutes later, our name was finally called and our food slid out. Now I would normally spend at least a good solid paragraph bitching about such an extended wait time, but I’ve decided it’s best to cut these guys some slack. It was opening day, there was a line 20 people deep, and every business needs at least a few days to work out some of the standard organizational kinks. Maybe you think I’m just making excuses for them, and honestly, you’re absolutely right. And there’s a very simple reason for that: I’ve tasted their waffles. The phrase “worth the wait” has since taken on a whole new meaning.
The Chicken and Waffle Fryders we ordered came out piping hot and undeniably adorable. Tiny waffle fry burgers, how cute is that? The chicken was juicy and smothered in a special sauce that lived up to its name, tangy without being overpowering. But the waffle fry buns and the nest of waffle fries on the side were what really stole the show. These babies were seasoned to perfection. It would probably be a fair allegory to liken The Waffle Bus fries with what you’d get if Jack-in-the-Box seasoned curlies got together with Chick-fil-a’s waffle fries and had babies. But honestly, even that doesn’t do it justice. Super crispy of the outside and light and fresh on the inside, these were the fries that all other fries of the future should aspire to be.
Now, didn’t I promise you some dessert? The sweet waffle sandwich menu included a Nutella and Banana standard, a chocolate-marshmallow S’mores concoction, and the beauty that I settled on: the Strawberry Irish Cream Crème Brulee. With strawberries, caramelized sugar and a dusting of powdered sugar tucked away inside a fluffy traditional Belgian waffle, this original and sophisticated spin on the sweet waffle knocked the sweet tooth right out of my jaw, and yet still managed to leave me craving more. The Waffle Bus’ sweet waffles seem to toe that line between sweet and too-sweet with a degree of stability that defies the deceptive simplicity of the truck’s overall concept. Simply put, this ain’t all-you-can-eat waffle month at IHOP. This is fine junk food dining.
So stuffed with waffles and a hearty helping of my own premature judgmental words, I slumped away from the Waffle Bus feeling duly corrected. The Waffle Bus and its somewhat eccentric image does not signify the arrival of kitsch nor the departure of quality from the food truck hood. On the contrary, it raises the bar with a playful and refined perspective that promises to challenge its neighbors to follow their example and start taking some serious risks with what people expect from certain foods. Because it looks like those risks are going to pay off big for The Waffle Bus.
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