Walking into Sweet Iron Waffles, on Third between Seneca and University, it's the smell of caramelizing sugar that gets you first. Then there's the ritual to watch: Wielding what look like elongated tuning forks, the waffle jockey reaches into the dough-proofing box behind him, spears a blob of dough studded with fat chunks of rock sugar, and plops it into a spot on the iron. Once the machine is fully loaded, he closes the lid, flips the iron over, and does the reverse to the machine next to it, pulling out fat, deeply caramelized Liège style waffles.
According to the counterwoman, owner Adrienne Jeffry lived in Belgium for a while as a child, and like most of us who have done the same, has been thinking about opening up a Liège-style waffle shop since she returned to the States. (There are actually two major styles of Belgian waffles: Liège waffles are thicker and denser than Brussels-style waffles, with pockets of melted rock sugar). Sweet Iron Waffles specializes in plain and chocolate waffles, with espresso drinks on the side; the coffee comes from Stumptown.
Jeffry uses the waffles as a base for more elaborate concoctions, including bacon-maple (sigh) and Brie-basil, which a friend enjoyed but I didn't -- there was way too much basil, and the savory topping on the sweet base clashed. But I'm a purist. And I'll take a plain, sugar-mined waffle straight from the iron any day. Er, every day.
Sweet Iron Waffles, 1200 Third Ave, Suite 110, 682-3336. Open 7 days a week (though Sat.-Sun. times are limited).