Story and photos by Michele Runko
Mmmm. Freshly made, warm waffles topped with strawberries, bananas and whipped cream and drizzled with melted chocolate are back at the Union Square Holiday Market. The Belgian-inspired Wafels & Dinges are selling like, well, hotcakes.
Despite the economic downturn, Wafels & Dinges, which won the 2009 Vendy Award in the dessert category for outstanding street food and is expected to appear on the Food Network’s “Throw Down with Bobby Flay” sometime this month, is mobbed with children, teens and holiday shoppers. The customers stand on long lines waiting for the waffles, which come with close to a dozen toppings, including the company’s signature Belgian chocolate fudge. The waffles, which sell for as little as $3 per mini-Wafelini plus one free topping, are made fresh each day. The company uses two different batter recipes; The soft and chewy Liege Waffle uses imported ingredients; the light and crispy Brussels waffle uses local ingredients. Fellow vendors at the market and Baruch students with ID enjoy a discount on the waffles.
“These waffles are just saturated with amazing goodness; I don’t know if I have the verb to describe such a feeling but it was absolutely … sublime,” says Daniel Kelly, a 22-year-old Baruch student, as he bit into his Brussels waffle coated with strawberries, bananas, whip cream and Nutella. “A transcending experience.”
This is the second year that the waffle stand, with its yellow sign and fluffy confections, has appeared on Union Square, the aroma of sizzling dough and molten chocolate wafting over the park during the holiday season. The business was started in 2007 when Thomas Degeest, a management consultant at IBM left his job so that he could open up his own “authentic” Belgian waffle company. Degeest, who hails from Belgium, called his business Wafels & Dinges because, in Dutch, dinges means toppings.
The waffles are made to order by the company’s part-time workers and John and Sonia Hiedel, a married couple who have worked with Degeest since he founded the company. “The business has been good even with the economy downturn,” says Sonia. “Everyone is very, very happy when they see or they smell waffles. Comfort food will always sell in a bad market. When someone’s walking by and they smell our waffles it’s hard to resist.”
This year the waffle stand can be found at the Holiday Market in Union Square from November 25th to December 24th. The company, which owns two waffle trucks, appears daily at two different locations in New York throughout the year. For exact times and locations visit the Wafels & Dinges Web site at www.wafelsanddinges.com; its Twitter address – waffletruck; its Facebook site; or call the waffle hotline at (866) 257-7329.