The first thing that hits you when you walk into Waffle Bar is the sweet, sweet smell: a buttery blast of batter and sugar so thick I think it's clinging to my hair and clothing even as I write this, hours after my visit.
The second thing that hits you is the synth.
"Jesus, it's loud in here," I think. Marshmello's "Ritual" is a banger, to be sure, but the track's blaring at a decibel level that's a little more 11 p.m. on a Friday than 4 p.m. on a Sunday. "Maybe that's what makes this a waffle bar."
We lost one of the all-time great names in Minneapolis dining when Lyndale Avenue's I Am Coffee closed last year. The address was tragically coffee and bubble tea-free for months, until mid-May, when Waffle Bar opened its doors. And if the name isn’t as memorable, the menu sure is: In addition to coffee and boba drinks and slushies and tea, Waffle Bar dishes out “egg waffles” or “bubble waffles, ” a popular Hong Kong street food that’s started to make its way stateside. (“The bubble egg waffle is taking over NYC!” Food Network proclaimed last year.)
In Hong Kong, egg waffles are often served plain or with a bit of fruit or chocolate. But this is America, dammit, so Waffle Bar’s get a scoop of Sebastian Joe’s ice cream and are topped with everything from crushed-up chocolate chip cookies and sprinkles (Cookieapolis) to crumbled bacon and caramel (Ice Ice Bacon) to M&Ms and chocolate and graham crackers and a skewer of marshmallows (S’Mores More). You can get them plain, or with fruit, if you so choose: Strawberry Dream arrives with fresh berries, a chocolate drizzle, and whipped cream, while Bananutella gets—you guessed it—bananas, Nutella, and whipped cream. Signature bubble waffles are $7.75; specialty waffles run you $8.75.
Immediately drawn to the more over-the-top options, I order the Eye Candy, because a.) I am a four-year-old child with a credit card, b.) no one’s here to stop me, and c.) the only fruit I want out of this experience is of the pebbled variety. In addition to breakfast cereal, Eye Candy’s vanilla ice cream-stuffed waffle boasts rainbow sprinkles, edible glitter, gummy bears, and two kinds of candy (rock and cotton). You get to choose what color cotton candy you'd like—I pick pink over blue or purple—then watch as it's freshly handspun on a countertop machine. This thrills me, a toddler, to no end.
It may be absurd for Subway to call its employees “sandwich artists,” but the gal prepping my gluttonous purchase is a goddamn ice cream Van Gogh. She spends at least five minutes carefully arranging each sprinkle and pebble, resting the gummy bears just so, all face-up, against their waffle pillow. A line 11 people deep has formed before she finishes the thing off with glitter like the Salt Bae of sweets and skewers it all with rock candy and an entire thing of cotton candy. Smiling as she assesses her work, she nestles a pink plastic spoon between the waffle and its paper shell.
I assume this was part of the training: Waffle Bar is made for Instagrammin'. There's a mural of pink and blue and purple on one wall, framed in block letters spelling MADE IN MPLS, that begs you to hold your absurd creation in front of it for a photo. And it works, of course: The second my name is called I snatch the ice cream waffle and take between eight and 32 pictures against this colorful backsplash. It’s the first time I can recall eating a “handheld” “snack” so big it requires I fully extend my arm to get the whole thing in the shot. But think of the likes! Besides, no need to feel embarrassed by your Public Display of Social Media Use here—I watch no fewer than 10 people pose for photos during the 15 minutes I’m inside.
It is loud, though, and growing crowded, so I exit to a pair of patio tables, where I’ll take 46 more photos that really capture the glitter glinting in the sunlight. And, theoretically, actually eat this thing.
Unsure how to attack it—use the spoon? Use the waffle? Eat the cotton candy first?—I ultimately break a bubble off from the rest of its doughy brethren and give it a tentative squeeze before dunking it in the vanilla and popping it in my mouth.
Oh, man. It's good.
The waffle itself isn't actually all that sweet, which, thank God, given the USDA would probably say this thing already contains a year's worth of your recommended sugar intake. It's a tactile delight, too: a chewy, soft center with a crispy outer shell. The whole thing, in fact, is texturally lovely. The ice cream is just-right creamy (possibly because it's melting during my 10-minute photo shoot). Crunchy fruity pebbles break it all up nicely. Gummy bears are always welcome.
And there’s one more surprise in store that will tickle every toddler cleverly disguised as an adult woman: The spoon is one of the color-changing ones. I’m officially four again, at the kitchen counter, sticking my Lion King spoon into a bowl of Cheerios and marveling as Mufasa goes from blue to purple. Okay, Waffle Bar. You win. I’m sold.
Before digging in, my brain had issued a stern admonition to my hands and mouth: “You are only going to eat half of that.” My taste buds make a compelling counter-argument: “Hahaha, no, eat the whole thing.” Bubble after bubble makes its way into my mouth.
Later, abuzz with sugar, plastic spoon planted safely in my pocket for future ice cream use, I'll have a waffle-fueled revelation: The chorus of Marshmello’s synthy EDM jam foretold the future. It absolutely sums up my Waffle Bar experience.
"Whoa, I never knew love, never knew love, never knew love
Living without you, living without you
Oh I, I don't feel lost, I don't feel lost, I don't feel lost
now that I've found you, now that I've found you."
2758 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis