9 Waffles We Love In Chicago

[Photographs: Amy Cavanaugh]

Until the moment I began writing this story, the most enjoyable part was spending a week and a half eating waffles. But then, as I started describing each waffle, I wondered: is there an official name for the indentations in a waffle? There must be, right? That resulted in researching waffle history for far longer than I should admit to, and turning up some interesting waffle tidbits.

So before we get to the delicious waffles that you can find around Chicago, I thought I'd share some waffle fun facts. (If you want to skip ahead, go ahead and click on the slideshow.)

  1. The ancient Greeks made flat cakes called "obelios" that were similar to waffles.
  2. The word "waffle" comes from the Dutch, who first used "wafel" in 1744. That word is from the Middle Dutch word "wafele" and related to the Old High German word "waba," which means "honeycomb "and the Old English "wefan," which means to "weave."
  3. Cornelius Swarthout of New York filed the patent for the first waffle iron in 1869. He added a hinged lid and dividers to a skillet and called it a "new and useful 'Improvement in Waffle Irons.'"
  4. Eggo waffles were invented in 1953 in California by the three Dorsa brothers. They initially called them "Froffles," a portmanteau of "frozen" and "waffles." Then people started referring to them as "eggos" for their eggy taste, so they changed the name in 1955. Bring back Froffles!
  5. So what are those indentations called? Sadly, there doesn't actually appear to be an official name. A grammar website says that "pockets" is used frequently, and also suggests nooks, divots, indents, syrup holders, honeycombs, dimples, grid indentations, dents, and windows. A Time Magazine article notes the waffle's relation to the communion wafter and says that the waffle pattern is "said to resemble interlocking crosses."

Now back to Chicago. While my focus was on Belgian-style waffles, I wanted to make sure that I tried a wide range of toppings and included both sweet and savory styles. I tried everything from basic butter and maple syrup-topped waffles to a fish and quail egg-topped version.

The best waffles were the ones that were crisp on the outside and soft inside, and I'd give Ina's, Toni Patisserie, and Lou Mitchell's the highest marks. They were the simplest waffles, which might say something about my taste, but overall, you're not going to go wrong with any of these nine waffles.

Check them all out by clicking on the slideshow, or by visiting them individually below.