Waffle Mania Belgian Waffle Truck at Civic Center Farmer's Market - SF
This morning at Civic Center Farmer's market I came across a waffle truck! The man at the truck said that they are usually at the Marin Farmer's Market, but today was their first day at Civic Center. According to the truck sign, they are based in Mill Valley.
I tried a waffle (3 dollars) and it was really really good. The outside was crispy, and parts were almost caramelized along some of the edges. The inside was soft and still very hot...almost slightly undercooked, which I loved. The waffle was topped w/ powdered sugar which made for messy eating as I walked around the farmer's market since the powder blew all over my clothes and face. It was, however, delicious. I am excited that the truck is here and I hope it stays! If you're in the area, I recommend stopping by.
Ruth Lafler's quoted in SF Weekly about "The Public Shaming of the Waffle Truck Guy"
for her comment here,
How are 'hounds liking the waffles these days? Now in Oakland and SOMA, as well as Civic Center.
This article is out of date -- I wrote it for one of SF's major newspapers about seven months ago, but things didn't pan out. Anyway, I thought readers and waffle lovers would be interested in the background information. I haven't been to the Civic Center market in a while, so I'm not sure about the latest.
It's Waffle Mania
By Alexandria Rocha
Morgan Davis, a 24-year-old public relations director for the Orpheum Theater, had her first waffle from Waffle Mania in 2007.
She was intrigued by a thick smell of vanilla and sugar coming from the Civic Center farmers’ market as she stepped off the bus at Hyde and Market streets one Wednesday morning.
She continued toward the usual bagel and coffee shop for breakfast, but stopped short after eyeing a small white truck boasting authentic Belgian waffles next to the rotisserie and tamale vendors. She got into the long line.
“Powdered sugar?” the man asked, winking.
“Yes, please,” she said, a little intimidated, handing him $3.
It was crisp, chewy and warm, just like in Brussels. Definitely not frozen.
“We had Eggo waffles,” Davis said of her childhood experience before her parents bought a waffle maker. It was then waffles made from cinnamon batter, drenched in butter and fruit toppings, were introduced at Sunday brunch.
Waffle Wednesdays is now a permanent routine for Davis and her co-workers at the theater. It’s a lot like the episode of NBC’s “The Office,” she said, where everyone gets a little too excited for pretzel day.
“There is a buzz in the office. Everyone talks about the smell,” she said. “I really do make sure I go to the ATM Tuesday so I have cash for my waffles Wednesday morning.”
Since its debut at the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market a year ago, Waffle Mania – either a converted ice cream truck or standard market tent equipped with two gas-powered waffle irons – has spurred a waffle fever of sorts, not unlike the San Francisco crepe craze. Its customers, who are about 60 percent women, range from workers looking for a breakfast alternative or an adult take on a school-day treat to those hoping for a flashback of a European vacation or semester abroad. There are plenty of market shoppers and tourists who eat them, too.
Co-owners Derby Preston, of Danville, and Alain Dupont and Jean Louis Van Den Bosch, who are both of Belgium and now live in Marin County, hope to carve a niche for the waffle among the European street foods San Franciscans already enjoy, such as crepes and gelato.
“Waffles are a proven product beyond the lifespan of America. I looked at a painting of Bruegel, and there was the waffle,” said Preston, a care bear of a man with white hair and beard, regarding the 15th Century Belgian painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s paintings, which often featured waffles.
There are only a handful of full-time Belgian waffle purveyors in the U.S., said Edith Mayeux, a New York-based commissioner in charge of the food sector for the Belgian Trade Commission. “A lot of people have shown interest in opening a business and selling these waffles. Nobody has succeeded yet.”
Mayeux said rents in cities such as San Francisco are typically too high for would-be purveyors of the specialty snack.
“This is why waffles are only sold at diners as part of a range of products,” she said. “The Belgian concept of having a little place on the street where you can attract customers by the smell on their way to work has not been possible.”
A mobile truck, however, could be the key, she said.
Waffle Mania has been a 30-year-old dream for Preston and Van Der Bosch, who both make their living outside the waffle business as jewelers. The two met while working as heavy equipment operators in Walnut Creek in the 1970s.
Becoming fast friends, the two took a trip to Belgium in 1981, where Preston had his first waffle in Brussels. A year later, he imported two 80-pound waffle irons from Belgium. He wasn’t an entrepreneur, but thought waffles could be big. The irons sat in his garage for 24 years.
Like many chefs trying to replicate a recipe, Preston and Van Der Bosch failed again and again. They tested various recipes throughout the years, but couldn’t seem to get it right. Finally, after meeting Dupont, then the owner of Crepes Factory at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market on the Embarcadero, they decided to buy dough directly from the source.
They hooked up with a company about 10 minutes outside Brussels called So Good, which flash freezes waffle dough for shipments around the world. The ingredients are simple: flour, butter, water, eggs, yeast, salt, vanilla and Belgian pearl sugar. The pearl sugar is made from beets and hailed as the special ingredient – it’s coarse, large grains melt down for a crunchy texture.
Unlike toaster waffles or the ones served at IHOP smothered in maple syrup and whipped cream, the Waffle Mania cakes have a bread-like texture that is soft and fluffy with pockets of pearl sugar on the inside and a crispy outer layer. Dupont, the waffle-ologist of the group, encourages customers to eat them plain, but has powdered sugar and chocolate sauce on hand for the sweet-sweet toothed.
The product rivals the waffles in Belgium, said Dupont, who returned to that country for waffle training after signing on with Waffle Mania and selling Crepes Factory.
“I try to keep it as authentic as I can,” Dupont said. “People have asked me for maple syrup, and I say, ‘No way, it will ruin it.’”
At 360 calories each, the waffles are a bit indulgent all on their own.
“I tried one, and I was hooked,” said Sun Lee, a stay-at-home mom who brings her two daughters to the market each week. “I’ve never seen another authentic Belgian waffle purveyor. These are more substantial being yeast raised,” rather than baking-powder raised as is common in the U.S.
Art Institute student Aziza Odeye trades a cold pastry for a warm waffle on Wednesday market days. “I say I’ll get one, but I’ll get two,” she said. “If they had fruit, that’d be a wrap for me.”
During her first visit, Myke Buster, a student at City College of San Francisco, asked Dupont for sugar-free syrup.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“It’s a way to cut back on the fat,” she said, accepting a dusting of powdered sugar instead.
“It’s moist, definitely flavorful,” she said, after the first bite. “You don’t need syrup on these.”
While additional toppings are not likely, the co-owners are envisioning a full-scale waffle enterprise. There is already talk about selling the waffles out of bakeries and coffee shops throughout the city, including North Beach and Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf, and possibly on ferryboat charters to Alcatraz. The owners plan to sell the dough to other waffle purveyors, and have already contracted with a baker in Los Angeles who wants 30 cases.
They hope the lines at the Wednesday Heart of the City market are an indication of things to come. For now, the owners are setting up a tent at the market, while the truck is in the shop.
“Sometimes they’re long gone, and people still come asking for them,” said Sara Manivong, whose family sells produce at the market.
She buys her waffles first thing in the morning.
If the previous post has whetted your appetite for Belgian waffles like it has mine, you should call and confirm that they are going to be on site tomorrow before making a special trip. I just called and they aren't sure they will be there tomorrow. They are waiting for the dough.
According to the schedule above they do the SF Civic Center Wednesdays but *not* Sundays, because Sundays they're at the Marin Farmers market. And Saturday they are at the Oakland/Grand Lake market (where I've seen them and smelled them but never tried them), not Ferry Plaza.
In other words, don't look for them in SF on the weekends!
A regional variation of Waffles are Waffles Liegeois (of the town of Liege, in the south), aren't meant to be crisp. They should have so much sugar that the outside is a little chewy simply because the sugar is somewhat melted and fluid. The comparison to churros is somewhat apt - they're that sweet, although unfried.
So, perhaps these are Liegeois instead of Bruxellois?
In Liege the waffle guys have a stack of premade but will be making one every now and then, as the smell is the calling card. You want to wait around until a freshie comes off the griddle
There is commonly a choice between standard (vanilla) batter and chocolate batter. I think y'all would have mentioned the chocolate batter if they had it.
Dang, I could really go for a waffle now....
Went by this morning and there was no sign of the truck...does it still come every Wed? I got there at 8am, then shopped around for about 40 minutes until I lost faith in the truck appearing and got 3 All-Star tamales instead...they were tasty in their own right and a good attempt at sans-waffle-consolation, but I really was looking forward to my first waffle. I left the market at 9:10 with no sign of the truck. Is it usually parked right by the tamale and falafel vendors? I'll try again next week.
you know it's no longer a truck but a stand
same location and same good stuff (dough) from belgium
i was there wednesday also and the waffleguy wasnt around. i know he sometimes caters elsewhere on assignment so it's a bummer when we can't get our waffle fix. he needs to get himself a retail space or partner with one of our fancy coffee shops
The stand was at the Civic market this morning, and the waffles were gloriously delicious! I had one without sugar, and found it to be the perfect level of subtle sweetness. Need to learn how to make these myself -- has anyone made these successfully at home?
FYI, he said he usually arrives around 7:15, to be set up and serving around 8 am.
The truck was not at the Civic Center Farmer's Market today (Wednesday Jan. 30) when I walked through at 7:20 a.m. Anyone know what happened?
Last week you couldn't miss it because of the magnetic aroma. I thought $3 was a bit much to pay for a small waffle that wasn't hot, but then again I never thought anyone would pay the prices at Mrs. Fields for cookies they could make at home.
re: Bay Gelldawg
I went by around 9:30am and they were there, although not busy. The waffle was warm (not hot) and was pretty good--it's a yeasted dough, as others have pointed out, so it doesn't have that typical american-waffle fluffy/crisp thing going on. It's dense and bready-yeasty, more like challah/brioche in flavor, with a slightly crunchy outside. Did I love it? No, not really, but it's a cute idea. I don't think they have toppings at Civic Center; I asked and was told that it didn't need them--just a sprinkle of powdered sugar. Maybe I've have gotten Nutella if I've begged, but I settled for the standard $3 plain.
Here's a picture of the waffle truck from sfeater.com which credits the tip to Chowhound
Here's a picture of the waffle itself topped with chocolate hazelnut spread and whipped cream.
There is a good article (repeated in the flicker link) from the Marin Independant Journal.
The batter comes a Belgium company called SoGood ... hey SoGood calls it batter. However in the Marin IJ article the owner says it is yeasted dough that is squeezed.
SoGood is one of the leading Belgium waffle companies which exports the flash-frozen yeasted dough. It is the pearl sugar made from beets which is not available in the US that gives them the crunchiness. Nice pictures of the dough on the SoGood website.
They are good up to 5 days and can be reheated in a toaster or toaster oven.
Plans are for a permanent waffle cart on Pier 39, the warming hut and ski resorts in Mammoth and South Lake Tahoe.
They are a street food called gaufres in Belgium. .
The Marin IJ quotes one of the owners....
""Basically this is the same as what originated in Liege - a town in Belgium where the waffles were invented sometime in the 12th century," says Derby Preston, who says that they were baked by miners' wives who would give them to their husbands as snacks when they walked in the door."
The other partners are Belgium-born Jean-Louis Van den Bosch and Alain Dupont
Where they currently sell
Civic Center Farmers Market Wednesday morning
Fairfax Wednesday night market from 6 to 9 p.m.
Downtown San Rafael Thursday night market from 6 to 9 p.m
Grand Lake farmers market Saturday morning
Marin Civic Center farmers markets Thursday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
I'm not sure if it's the same ones that are in Oakland. The man only mentioned Marin. I didn't even ask about toppings, since toppings are 1 dollar extra. However, I got a sample of an apple slice to eat along with my last few bites, and that worked very well.....it'd be a good experiment to carry a waffle around to see which fruits in the market go best with it.
My wife and I just tried it based on your post. It was very good. Although the inside wasn't as hot as we would have liked, it had a nice texture and we liked the contrast between the crispy outside and the chewy center. The owners said that they plan to be there every week for the entire day, but they would have to see how business is going at that location. They also said that they get their batter from Belgium and claimed to be the only U.S. distributor. Hopefully they'll stick around, it's a nice addition to the usual farmer's market food trucks.
Presumably it's the same folks who sold me a waffle at the Oakland Grand Lake market several Saturdays ago - wasn't bad, though the crust seemed a tad chewier than I'd have liked. Still, a nice change from the usual crepes/steam-table Thai/etc I usually see at the local farmer's markets.