These are not your mother's Belgian waffles — unless, of course, your mother is actually from Belgium.
Visiting Bruges Waffles & Frites will get you a waffle (or gaufre, as they're known here) that might look at least a little like the Belgian waffles most Americans know: round waffle, fruit, cream.
But take a bite and you'll realize you're not eating a waffle that's like anything you've had before. Finely textured but richly flavored, light-tasting yet filling, studded with delicate bubbles of pearl sugar, they really are a revelation.
When my friend, Gaylynn, and I took our youngest children to lunch at Bruges, we felt fortunate no one else was in the shop at the time. That's because this tiny eatery barely has room for four barstools and a counter along a western wall — just enough room for the four of us. There are several tables out front, but in colder weather they're not a very attractive option. That's probably why so many people were getting their food to go while we were there.
We tried two kinds of gaufres: the lighter, crisper Brussels type and the sweeter, denser Liege version. The Brussels, while delicious, was more like Belgian waffles I'd had before. The Liege was surprising for several reasons. For one, it's amazingly filling. The waffles aren't particularly large, but the rich risen dough full of nuggets of warm or caramelized sugar will fill your stomach fast.
For another, their quality sets them apart — and I mean far apart — from a typical American waffle.
Aside from the waffles, whose quality I've already described, some of the toppings include sweetened creme fraiche, dark-chocolate ganache and various fresh berries. You really could eat a waffle by itself and be perfectly satisfied, but add just one or two toppings and you might have trouble finishing your waffle — though you'll want to, because they're wonderful.
I topped mine with chocolate and sweet, thick-sliced strawberries. A can of Pellegrino Limonata nicely cut the sweetness and kept me eating heartily, but to balance the waffle's flavors even more, I ordered some Belgian-style beef stew, basically a falling-apart pot roast braised in Guinness beer. Its robust, savory flavors were a nice balance to the waffles.
I just had to order frites, as well, served in a huge white-paper cone — huge even if you order the smaller sizes, and positively ginormous if you order the large.
Having never been to Belgium, I've never had actual Belgian frites, but I have had several versions at restaurants in the United States, and I can say that the frites at Bruges are among the nicest you'll get in these parts: crisp outside, tender inside and served with your choice of tons of mostly mayo-based dips.
Yes, you can get ketchup or fry sauce, but why not branch out? We had a nice garlicky aioli, a fresh and piquant green sauce of ground chives and green onions, and the andalouse, an earthy blend of orange bell peppers, basil, mustard, cayenne pepper and other seasonings.
Frites $3-$8 (one mayo dip per order; extras 65 cents each), gaufres $3, toppings $1-$3, stew $6-$9.
Bruges Waffles & Frites
Where: 336 W. Broadway
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; closed Sunday
Payment: Major credit cards accepted
Wheelchair access: Difficult; crowded interior but accessible tables outside for fine weather
Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret News. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org