Standing Room Only: Baladoché
2905 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60657 (map); 773-880-5090; baladoche.com
The Short Order: Belgian waffles to go.
Want Fries with That? You can add gelato or Nutella, but makes them less portable.
Seats? There are some tables inside, but what's the fun of that?
I've eaten a lot of different kinds of food while standing up in my life, but waffles have never been one of them. I didn't even know one could eat a waffle without sitting down with a fork and knife. Of course, I also grew up in the Midwest, so when I think of waffles, I imagine a hot plate, soft butter, and copious amounts of maple syrup pooling in each and every crevice. To say I was confused when I first walked up to the takeout window of Baladoché, a Belgian waffle outlet in Lakeview, would be an understatement. How can you eat this food on the go?
I was even more confused when I noticed that all the waffles had been cooked ahead and were sitting out on the counter. When ordered, one is thrown back on the press to warm up. I had always assumed that best waffles were made to order, and that the longer they sat out the worse they got. But as you've probably figured out by now, I know nothing about Belgian waffles. Apparently I have a lot to learn.
Turns out Belgian waffles are downright practical as street food. In fact, the Booty Call ($5.47) comes in a handy carrying case, so you can eat and walk without even having to worry about getting your hands sticky. Crisp on the outside, slightly chewy, but still very tender, the waffles here are unlike any that I've tried before. Though rolled around in a box of cinnamon sugar—I still don't know why this is called a Booty Call—the flavor of the waffle still carries the most weight. Next time I'll probably just skip the sugar all together and go for the Naked ($4.56).
But if you're feeling a little more extravagant, you can spring for the Ferrari ($12.76), which heaps on crunchy Nutella, gelato, and more Bailey's whip cream than any human should eat in a year. Unlike the Booty Call, this one comes in a box and is an absolute pain in the ass to eat while standing. Still, there is no doubting the deliciousness of the experience. The waffle stands up firmly to the gelato, only softening slightly.
It's not like I've been craving mobile Belgian waffles in my life, but I have to hand it to Baladoché for showing me the light. Also, this is probably the only place in town that will also happily accept all those Euros you have stashed in your house. I'm not sure if the exchange rate is good or not, but considering how that currency is sinking in the market, getting paid in Belgian waffles isn't a completely bad idea.