It isn’t often a food can be described as sparkly, but that’s certainly the word that comes to mind biting into one of Sweet Iron Waffles’ decadent creations. Pearls of sugar embedded in a dense yet fluffy batter explode on the tongue with a satisfying and caramelized crunch.
This tiny storefront at 1200 3rd Avenue downtown specializes in authentic Liège waffles, a variation original to eastern Belgium where they’re also known as hunting waffles. Made with butter, flour, honey, yeast, and pearled sugar, the waffles are an adaption of brioche bread dough into a gridded and pressed breakfast delicacy studded with crystalline sweetness.
Sweet Iron’s waffles are made of all-natural, local, and organic ingredients, most notably utilizing flour from The Shepherd’s Grain, an alliance of progressive farmers dedicated to sustainable agriculture practices. Conscientious ingredients necessitate no skimping on flavor however, and each one of Sweet Iron’s fluffy 6-inch waffles packs a punch.
The menu’s divided into sweet and savory options, both of which use the caramelized gridded bread as a base. Hot-off-the-grill waffles are sprinkled with a heavy helping of salty prosciutto and adorned with smooth crème fraiche and diced scallions for a tangy blend of briny and brioche. A more hearty option slides roast turkey breast over locally-made raspberry jam and finishes it off with twin slices of Havarti melted with a blow torch.
Sweet Iron’s employees are liberal and effervescent with their use of fire and it’s a form of entertainment to watch your treat created. Sturdy black cast iron Belgian waffle irons—imported from the homeland—are patrons’ first sight on arrival, steaming with the scintillating aroma of sizzling dough.
Bananas also get the fiery touch as they’re delicately brûléed for topping on a popular sweet waffle further crowned with caramel sauce and homemade whipped cream. The parallel crunch of caramelized banana and toasted batter reveals an inner softness which alleviates any complaints this sparkling gem might be too sweet.
The waffles, no bigger than the size of your hand, are surprisingly hearty and impressively priced with the most elaborate offerings topping out at a mere $6.50, make it easy to justify an extra splurge on Stumptown espresso, tea, or local apple cider. They’re conveniently available in miniature form to-go, sprinkled with powdered sugar or drenched in chocolate.
This favorite also has a larger edition dipped hot from the griddle in Fechlin chocolate or Nutella, and Sweet Iron’s menu doesn’t neglect the classics either. Strawberries or berries are topped with a heaping fluff of fresh whipped cream which melts to a creamy syrup on contact with the hot batter.
The café lives up to its hole-in-the-wall status with a cramped scattering of three or four tables largely inadequate to accommodate its popularity during rush hours, but the modern environment is intimate in off-peak times. Sweet Iron’s simple but creative menu almost begs for return visits to establish a favorite—or let’s be honest, a sparkly and sugary new addiction.