(NOTE: Please read part 2, posted July 2011)
BelgiQue Belgian Waffles, located in the "Reed Opera House Underground" in downtown Salem, Oregon, offers what they say are authentic Belgian waffles, "Liege" style (yeast dough with pearl sugar) or "Brussels" style (batter waffle). To cater to a wider audience, BelgiQue also offers gluten-free waffle options.
I arrived at about 10:40 a.m. on a Friday morning, so the place was practically empty. There was one group at BelgiQue before me, but they decided to come back another day. Meanwhile, my stomach was craving a Belgian waffle to no end.
Only one person worked that day at BelgiQue (it is a small place with maybe 3-4 tables, so they can get away with that). She immediately told me that they were out of bananas, vanilla mousse, and chocolate mousse. I looked at the menu, and a good number of their special waffle creations needed one or more of those unavailable ingredients. Uh oh. Not off to a good start. To me, you should put yourself in a situation where you don't run out of food. I'm not sure how busy they actually get, but running out of a particular component to your advertised items is a no-no.
Luckily, BelgiQue has several toppings to choose from, and they allow you to customize your toppings with a waffle of your choosing (some toppings, like whip cream, are free, while others are 50 cents extra, like triple berry compote).
I decided to create my own waffle: a Brussels-style waffle with vanilla ice cream, triple berry compote, and whip cream. The server got right to work, and the waffle came to me in a reasonable amount of time:
The presentation was gorgeous. I thought it was the perfect amount of compote, whip cream, and ice cream (yes, the ice cream is there, just covered by the compote and whip cream). The berry compote was not too sweet (a good thing) and had a mixture of blueberries, blackberries, and Marionberries. That compote really elevated the dish.
The vanilla ice cream was nice. It was firm enough to be ice cream, but still gave way when using your utensil to get at everything on the plate. The ice cream retained the smooth, velvety texture. I really felt like I was having one of my favorite desserts here, not just a second breakfast (yes, a second breakfast...I ate at 6 a.m. as well).
More importantly, the waffle was also one of the best I've had in a long time. Because it was fresh out of the waffle maker, it was nice and warm, slightly crispy/solid on the outside but with that soft inside. Making waffles to order is the ONLY way to go. Don't let a cooked waffle sit out for more than a minute or so, especially when putting toppings on that waffle.
I also liked how BelgiQue does promotions. If you get five waffles at BelgiQue, you get the sixth one free (up to a $5 value). My waffle shown above was $4.50, a decent price for the quality and quantity (the one waffle with toppings filled me up pretty good).
Some criticisms: (1) The place is small, so I felt a bit restricted for space as a patron. I really wonder how the place runs at a busier hour...say, Sunday morning at breakfast time. (2) My server had good knowledge of the menu and the items, but for some reason, I never felt extremely comfortable to talk much with her due to her appearance. Her demeanor wasn't the super-sweet, happy-go-lucky persona, either. I'm not saying that's how she always would seem, but it was just off-putting on my experience.
Despite the couple of negatives, this is a place that I would go to again and again. If you're in the downtown Salem area -- and they even could be at the Salem Saturday Market -- be sure to check them out! You will not be disappointed.