Q&A with Wafels & Dinges
Wafels & Dinges has been part of New York City since 2007 and the food truck has managed to win over both New Yorkers and tourists with their crunchy yet airy, sweet and tasty waffles. Yesterday, Wafels & Dinges opened its first brick and mortar location in the East Village (Avenue B & East 2nd Street) and the word is, the menu is great. I was excited to have had the opportunity to chat with the Wafels & Dinges crew about the new spot, waffle ideas that didn't make it to the menu and how to make the perfect waffle.
t’s been 8 years since you first rolled out your truck- does it ever get predictable? Never. Everyday is a different adventure. We've definitely gotten operationally tighter and better at reacting to daily hiccups or changes, but new challenges are always being thrown our way.
New York City is synonymous with Wafels & Dinges. I like to think of it as one of the city’s landmark’s- everyone loves what you offer (and that’s a statement that I’m very confident to say). When did you realize that people are head over heels in love with your wafels? Maybe when we realized people were coming in from out of the city just to have a wafel. Customers would post on social media that they were coming from Long Island, New Jersey, and even PA! Those people are the best and make what we do everyday worthwhile. It's a good reminder to not close early and to make every customer experience special, because they could be coming from far and wide.
How did winning the 2009 Vendy Award affect your business? How has Wafels & Dinges evolve since then? The Vendy's was a great moment because it was early on in our history. It gave us a boost of confidence and exposure we needed to keep moving forward. It really inspired us to tighten our ship because there's so much tough competition out there. We recognized specific items that we needed to improve in order to grow and it helped set us on the right track.
While your waffle truck is the waffle truck of NYC, I have noticed street vendors offering similar products sprouting about recently. Do you enjoy the competition? Has it affected sales at all? Competition is great and there's nothing wrong with other waffle vendors. We appreciate that others see that this is a product that customers want, so why not get in to that market? If we keep doing what we're doing and offer our customers a great product and even better experience, we will continue to stand out.
The Halal Guys are famous for their white sauce- do you feel that your spekuloos spread is ultimately the ingredient that completes your wafels? The Spekuloos spread is so good. It doesn't get old! But we do have to remind ourselves that while it's wildly popular, we have other great dinges and weekly specials that often times knock the spread out of the park. We still stand behind a "Belgian style" wafel with only powdered sugar, or a classic WMD. Spekuloos is a great crowd pleaser, but we want people to try new things, too.
I’ve been a loyal customer/fan since my first bite. I’ve tried items from your regular menu and your seasonal or limited-time only menu. What goes on behind the brainstorming for the next special wafel? Were there any ideas that did not make the cut? Was there ever a time when you offered a special and people loved it so much that it was incorporated into the regular menu? What are your top 3 best selling wafels and dinges? Some specials and new products could take up to 3 months to develop. We have a Culinary Coordinator who works in our test kitchen. He is from Belgium, so he's able to bring a old school charm to our specials, while keeping up with what's current in NYC. A special that didn't quite make the cut was the "Sprussels from Brussels", a gluten free wafel made of brussels sprouts. So many of us thought it was so good, but we soon learned it's hard to sell a waffle made of brussel sprouts. A special that wafeleurs/wafelettes on the truck put together is the "Baconana", which is a bacon wafel with bananas & chocolate, and we will be featuring it on our first cafe menu this summer. The lunch crowd just went wild for it because it's the best of both sweet and savory worlds. Our top three sellers are probably "de Bom", a liege with ice cream + chocolate fudge, the BBQ pulled pork wafel, the throwdown (with Spekuloos & whipped cream).
You guys are currently working on your first ever eat-in spot. How is that coming along? Will you guys offer the existing menu and/add to it? The cafe menu will be what we offer on the trucks and carts, plus espresso drinks, milkshakes, ice cream coupes, more savory items, more breakfast items. Opening the cafe is taking a bit longer than expected, but we're from the school of thought that we don't want to open before we're ready. It's been a long time coming, so we want to do it right. We are learning a lot and cannot wait to be nestled in the East Village. We will be open nice and early at 7am in the morning for a go-to coffee spot, and will stay open well into the night. We are really looking forward to offering our new array of handmade Belgian treats like butter waffles, galette cookies, and stroop wafels. We don't want to just open with all the same stuff, that's not as fun!
I’m no pro when it comes to making wafels (or cooking in general)- any wafel making tips for folks like me? The temperature of each individual ingredient is important (very cold milk or eggs aren't always ideal). Your waffle iron is essential. Treat it well, clean it, treat it. Ours are cast-iron and imported from Belgium and they make a huge difference.