Beer will make its way into rectangular-shaped waffles and a dozen tap lines when North Park’s Belgian Beer & Waffles debuts some time in May.
The 1,700-square-foot eatery (2899 University Avenue) comes from Guillaume Ryon, who runs the trio of Le Parfait Paris cafes around town.
He plans to use beer in the batter, which he says produces a light and fluffy texture, along with pouring about a dozen curated selections at the bar.
“Beer is a major component — in the glasses and waffles,” he says.
He’s teaming up with friends at San Diego’s Hopnonymous Brewing Co. to build out the batter and its compact list of rotating IPAs and barrel-aged options.
The space’s conversion from its former life as Starbucks into Belgian Beer & Waffles was relatively quick, with all the grease traps, plumbing, bathrooms, and AC already intact. The walk-up ordering counter is also staying put.
“We are working on giving it soul and making it feel less corporate,” he says.
The French businessman’s idea to open a modern waffle house was inspired by the frequent two-hour drive he used to make from Paris from Brussels for the country’s destination carbs.
“It’s like a weekend getaway, how we do San Diego to LA,” he says.
The fast-casual rustic restaurant will serve all meals of the day, with about half of the menu dedicated to sweets like the ice cream he serves at Le Parfait. His French bakery is also getting ready to expand into the gelato world this month.
“The way I try to explain [Belgian Beer & Waffles] is if you were to mix Baked Bear and Crack Shack with waffles,” he says, of the two homegrown frozen treats and egg-and-chicken eateries.
He’s excited to take advantage of the “crazy high” 18-foot ceilings, with plans to add a subtle color scheme featuring lots of pale and off white shades. Elements reminiscent of old brasseries and breweries in Belgium, like copper and wood, will also spruce up the space He’s keeping seating count low (around 50) to encourage a cozier vibe and not overwork the kitchen.
He’s obsessed with one fries-topped waffle order he sampled in Brussels, so he plans to serve a similar version at his San Diego outpost. Other offbeat toppings for his sweet-and-savory lineup call for prosciutto, cured meats, figs, walnuts, goat cheese. There will also be a more traditional chicken and waffles option. A huge 8-x-11 waffle — the dimensions of standard computer paper, he says — is also in the mix.
He assures his star dish will have an affordable price point; while waffles are considered “European and fancy,” he says, “it’s still street food.”
Along with beer, there’s also going to be wine and low-ABV spirits. He plans to be as eco-efficient as possible behind the bar.
“We want to limit the amount of waste we do and barrels are big part of that — that’s why I don’t like beer bottles,” he says.
His local dining portfolio will soon expand with The Skydeck, the new cocktail bar he’s co-running with Slater’s 50/50 founder Scott Slater. The new culinary collective is part of Del Mar Highlands Town Center’s $120 million renovation that adds more than 120,000-square-feet to the complex. He envisions a “fancy but approachable” setting for The Skydeck, expected to debut by early 2020.