Mandi Johnsrud didn’t think she liked waffles until about 15 years ago, when she was convinced, after repeated efforts, to try her first liege waffle.
It was an epiphany, and she immediately began cooking experimenting with the food. “I just fell in love with them,” Johnsrud added.
In late March, Johnsrud and her husband, Chris Arellano, opened up Downtown Waffle in Albany.
“These aren’t any waffles,” she said. “We do fun flavor combinations and it’s like your grandmother’s house here.”
Liege waffles are made with brioche style dough, not batter, leading to a heartier waffle. The Belgian pearl sugar also doesn’t mix fully in, creating caramelization and a certain amount of crunch. Think substantial and sweet.
“Because they’re already sweet, I love to put savory things on them,” Johnsrud said.
Popular varieties include “What Came First?,” which includes egg and roasted chicken, tomatoes, avocado and more, and the “Blackbird,” which has chevre and a blackberry and habanero spread. The option with strawberries and cream, which people are already used to on waffles, also are top sellers.
Waffles loaded with toppings are essentially a full meal, but customers also can get waffles a la carte.
Johnsrud, a 1990 graduate of Central Linn High School, said she also offers gluten-free waffles and vegetarian options. Her business also does catering for smaller events and holds private parties in the eatery after it closes.
Some people remain skeptical of waffles, but the food seems to be increasing in popularity, with trendy restaurants in Eugene and Portland specializing in the fare.
“If waffles are having a moment, that’s good,” Johnsrud said.
Toby Meekins, an Albany building designer, is another waffle convert who has become one of the regulars at Downtown Waffle. “The first day I came in, I was like, ‘I’m not a waffle guy,’” he said.
Now he comes in multiple times a week, and he usually orders the “What Came First?”
“It tastes better than it looks, and it looks awesome,” Meekins said.
Downtown Waffle, 329 Second Ave. SW, is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday through Sunday. For more information, go to the business’ Facebook page or call 541-990-7189.