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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

By The DOK Staff


With our offices near Penn Square Mall, we rarely get to try the many food trucks that ply their yummy portable meals around town. So we were thrilled when we found out that Waffle Champion had opened a storefront location in the 1212 N. Walker building in the Midtown Plaza Court District. They are surrounded by the newly renovated Osler/Ambassador Hotel, new apartments and restaurants, offices and shops like the Dry/Shop next door. These lucky neighbors now have a fabulous location for breakfast and lunch – open Tuesday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Owners Todd Woodruff and Tara Taylor established the original Waffle Champion food truck in June 2011 and successfully plied their waffles for over a year, building up their following on social media and Instagram. Woodruff was working on an accounting degree at the time, so Taylor (formerly a manager at Big Truck Tacos) worked the truck with Rachel Smith. They usually located near 23rd and Walker, but also appeared at area festivals like H&8th Night Market and Live on the Plaza. Deciding that accounting just wasn’t his niche, Woodruff started working in restaurants. After a stint at Boulevard Steakhouse, he worked his way up to sous chef at Cheever’s under chefs Ryan Lawson and Mark Ridenour, then did a turn at Red Prime. He received his accounting degree at UCO along the way, and eventually bought out the Waffle Champion food truck business.

Deciding he needed a larger kitchen space to experiment with recipes, the new store was born, with a fresh urban design achieved by architect Bryan Fitzsimmons. Woodruff says the floor plan and layout was designed in a repeating grid pattern, which resembles a “deconstructed waffle.” They decided on regular seating along with community-style tables and chairs.

Woodruff is constantly tweaking the recipes, and April brings a renovated menu with the first new batch of “tweaks.” One of the additions is the explanation of the two waffles made fresh in-house – a classic buttermilk that was made on the food truck, which is not as sweet, and works perfectly for the Craft Waffle Sandwiches; the second is a traditional Belgian yeast-risen dough called “Liege.” This waffle, similar to brioche, works well for the Sweets.

Their number-one seller is the applewood bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, followed by the buttermilk n’ sage fried chicken. We also tried the pulled pork, which was delicious with the Maytag bleu slaw and Tabasco honey. Also available are a pit ham with Havarti, tomato jam and Coop DNR mustard; the butter-poached cold water lobster is served with sauce gribiche (I had to look this one up – it’s a mayo-style cold sauce in French cuisine containing egg yolks, mustard, tarragon, chopped egg whites and other tasty ingredients). Vegetarians can choose from the Brussels sprouts hash with apples, Brie and balsamic honey, or the roasted garlic cauliflower mash with smoked almonds and lemon crème fraiche.

Daily specials are chalked on a blackboard-painted pillar, including the “Debris,” with ever-changing ingredients, served over waffle fries, of course. But speaking of fries – they offer a snack of waffle fries with garlic and parsley. Alongside, choose their house-made truffle mayo or house ketchup. Other snacks include Greek yogurt, Kind bars and gelato.

Not in a sandwich mood? They also serve soup (daily specials, along with green chili corn chowder and chilled jalapeno-melon gazpacho). Salads include spinach (with goat cheese, apples, roasted radishes and pecan vinaigrette) or chopped bibb (hard boiled egg, applewood bacon, pickled red onion and avocado buttermilk dressing).

Another option is the selection of Free Range Egg Bakers, which are similar to quiche except they’re not blended. Choices include the Florentine (skillet tomatoes, garlic spinach, mushrooms, waffle crouton and goat cheese béchamel); duck (confit, cracklins, smashed potatoes and avocado with smoked paprika hollandaise); and migas (turkey chorizo, tomatillo salsa, crème fraiche and crispy corn tortilla).

Beverage choices are terrific – those in need of a strong cup of java will love the Elemental coffee. They also serve Maine Root natural sodas, as well as being the only location to serve 100 percent organic, cold-pressed Organic Squeeze juice (which recently opened its first location in Nichols Hills Plaza next to Saturn Grill). They also have a selection of wine and beer and a few cocktails.

But no visit to Waffle Champion would be complete without indulging in their Sweets. For $7 you can pick three ingredients from a list of about 15 items, including caramelized banana, peanut butter mousse, baked cinnamon apples, candied bacon, chocolate ganache, red chili pecans, fresh berries, and our favorite – the new bourbon blackberry preserves. Top your creation with house-made whipped cream or marshmallow brulée (house-made marshmallows torched to a golden brown), both delightful indulgences well worth the calories!

Waffle Champion took part in a recent block party in and around the Midtown Plaza Court Building at NW 10th and Walker to kick off the opening of the 2014 H&8th Night Market. If you missed that opportunity for a late-night nosh, you’ll just have to visit Waffle Champion at their fixed location … and don’t let the lines put you off, because the food arrives quickly!

Todd Woodruff eventually envisions several more locations – ideally three – and would see where it goes from there. With a menu and prices that hit every demographic, it would be great to have a Waffle Champion in Edmond, and wouldn’t OU or OSU students love a 4 a.m. waffle? I’m putting my vote in early for a Tulsa store!

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