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Posted on Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 10:07 a.m.

The Wafel Shop fills a tasty niche on Liberty Street

By Julie Halpert

Noah Goldsmith was bitten by the waffle bug when he traveled throughout Europe. He took two years to develop the recipe for the perfect batter. Now Ann Arborites can sample it at the The Wafel Shop, which opened in early February. Staff wear T-shirts that say "This is not a typo" on the back. (Wafel is the Belgian spelling).

Goldsmith's partner is Tia Hoffman. She says Goldsmith's background as a Zingerman's employee and a former day trader in New York perfectly complemented her experience running several coffeehouses in Indiana. Hoffman says the emphasis at The Wafel Shop is purely on preparing excellent waffles with wholesome, locally-sourced ingredients. "We use nothing boxed. We don't even own a freezer," she said. She expects this restaurant will be a draw for one simple reason: "People love waffles."

The Wafel Shop occupies the former Cafe Japon on Liberty, and the owners have put their own youthful stamp on the interior, painting the walls a bright orange and adding some seating capacity. The place now seats 16. In addition to the few aluminum tables and chairs (which are a bit too hard for comfort) there are counters with high stools in front of a window looking onto Liberty and by the cashier.

Owners of The Wafel Shop are attempting to bring the Belgian version of hand-held street food to Ann Arbor. It's waffles and nothing else but coffee drinks, teas and hot chocolate. There aren't even any bottled waters in sight, and they have yet to offer juice.

The latte I ordered was frothy and full bodied. The teas offered are varieties of the organic Rishi tea. I tried the ginger and, though it was the standard tea in a bag, it was high quality and made for a flavorful hot drink.

There are two types of waffles to choose from: the liege, described as dense and chewy, and the Brussels, intended to be crispy, with a fluffy interior. I couldn't detect much difference between the two, except that the liege tasted slightly sweeter, likely due to the Belgian pearl sugar; and it was a bit smaller than the Brussels. Both tasted delightful.


The Wafel Shop
113 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor
Wafel Shop on Facebook
  • Hours: Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m.
  • Plastic: Visa, Mastercard, American Express.
  • Liquor: No.
  • Prices: Inexpensive.
  • Noise level: Quiet
  • Wheelchair access: Yes
After selecting your waffle, you choose among different types of toppings. A few, including butter and powdered sugar, are free, while the other toppings range from $1 to $2 per topping, quickly driving up the total cost of your $5 waffle. Blueberries and blackberries are only $1, while strawberries and raspberries cost $2. One of the free toppings is syrup made with processed white corn, while the premium Michigan maple syrup, made with maple from Sugar Bush Farms in Mason, is $2.

Toppings fall into categories of fruit, spreads and syrups, chocolate, nuts and protein. Bacon is the only item in the protein section. Peanut butter, which is full of protein, is in the "spread" category.

My daughter ordered her Brussels wafel topped with strawberries, whipped cream and Nutella, which proved to be a great combination. The whipped cream was clearly fresh. My son topped his Brussels wafel with blueberries and chocolate chips. All the fruit we sampled was sweet, fresh and flavorful, with produce from Frog Holler. My son's observation, which I thought was accurate, was that it's difficult to keep the toppings within the little squares of the waffle. They tend to slide off, making for a messy and less satisfying eating experience. Incorporating the toppings within the waffle batter instead of just sprinkling them on top might make for more interesting and tasty waffles.

My waffle was the best of all we ordered, a liege topped with bacon, along with fresh, whole almonds (they were out of pecans) and maple syrup. The bacon was thick, crispy and amazing, but I still don't think it was worth the wait. After waiting roughly 20 minutes for my son and daughter's waffles, I was told the bacon would take an additional 10 to 15 minutes. It took longer than that, and I had to wait 40 minutes for the waffle. (A server offered to refund my money.) On my second visit, I noticed an ample supply of cooked bacon behind the counter, so hopefully that issue has been addressed.

The next time around, I tried the liege waffle with the biscoff topping, made from cookies. The hot waffle caused the spread to melt. I thought this spread tasted very much like graham crackers, making this resemble a sort of waffle s'more, absent the marshmallow. It was heavenly, so sugary it could easily qualify as a dessert or sweet snack.

I was skeptical of how peanut butter would taste on a waffle, but I decided to give it a try, pairing it with pecans on a Brussels waffle. It was actually quite good, and a bit more healthful (if not low calorie). The pecans, like the almonds, were plentiful and served in big chunks. Unlike my first visit, where the servers clearly were overwhelmed with the crowd, they delivered these two waffles in a reasonable amount of time.

The big question is the niche that this restaurant will fill and whether people will flock to a place that serves just waffles. With this in the dessert or snack category, I'll be curious to see if this becomes popular, as the waffles aren't substantially different from what you would find at popular breakfast destinations around town. Still, the place was bustling on a noon weekday, so perhaps the novelty will work, especially with the college crowd.

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Jack Gladney

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 : 5:24 p.m.

I too gave The Wafel Shop a test drive. Having been to Belgium and having a sainted mother who loves nothing more - in terms of food - than the famous "Belgium Waffle" at the Big Boy, I thought I would treat her to the real thing. The staff at the counter could not have been more welcoming and friendly. The wafels (it's not misspelled) were OK as waffles go. But the $25 price tag for two waffles and two coffees did not meet the expectation of being transported back to Brussels. My mom had it right: "At Big Boy they at least bring it to you on a warm plate with silverware and a napkin. The girl was very nice, though." I stopped across the street for cupcakes across the street to fill up. Buy two get one free was a better value and mre filling.

Tom Joad

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 4:42 p.m.

Bacon contains very little protein but a lot of fat. I'll bring my own real maple syrup. These add-on costs really ramp up the price.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 4:36 p.m.

From the article, "Peanut butter, which is full of protein, is in the "spread" category." Peanut butter really is not "full" of protein. Protein makes up about 25% of peanut butter by weight, and only about 17% of its calories come from protein. By weight, there is twice as much fat as protein in peanut butter, and by calories the fat in peanut butter accounts for more than 4X the amount of calories from protein. See . A friend and I stopped by The Wafel Shop a few weeks ago. I ordered a liege waffle with pecans and (real) maple syrup. I received the order within a few minutes (it was not crowded at all), though they gave me a Brussels waffle, not the liege I had ordered. Not caring all that much, I ate the waffle and it was tasty enough, though not outstanding. I was thirsty and asked for (and received) water which was available at the left end of the counter at no charge. My biggest complaint with the place, though, is that it had a lingering odor of smoke and grease. I neither saw nor heard any evidence of an active ventilation system near the waffle preparation, so I think they may be relying solely on the heating/cooling system to vent the smoke generated from the waffle preparation. I found it unpleasant enough, and the quality of the waffles underwhelming enough (especially at the prices charged), that I likely will not be a return customer.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 4:05 p.m.

I recently stopped by the Wafel Shop to check it out around lunchtime and ordered a waffle with bacon and maple syrup and a cup of coffee which cost me $12. While everything was very delicious, the portion was rather small (definitely think snack, not lunch) and I left still feeling hungry after having spent a lot of money. Like others have said, I respect the use of top-notch ingredients, but unfortunately I don't think I will return frequently due to the cost.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 3:48 p.m.

I haven't been to the Wafel Shop, but I keep hearing that its overpriced. I've also heard a lot of the same things in this review, including that the toppings really raise the overall price and that they serve food you can find at other places (for cheaper). Unless they lower the prices or change the recipes to make the best waffles in town, I'm wondering if this will go the way of Grand Traverse Pie Company. (But I really respect that they are picky about their ingredients at Wafel Shop.)


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 3:10 p.m.

I'm glad they are "Wafels" and not "Waffles". This means they stand a chance of getting business in downtown cause, you's quirky.

Lizzy Alfs

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 2:55 p.m.

If you want to be tempted by pictures of waffles, like the Wafel Shop on Facebook. They post pictures daily and it never fails to make me hungry.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 2:49 p.m.

NO to Ms. Halpert's suggestion! Don't mix the fruit in with the batter! Pile it on top; some will slide off; it's all good. The contrast of the hot waffle and the cold, fresh fruit is part of the thrill.