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3 questions with Chris Duggan, Cast Iron Waffles owner



A two-item menu, a suburban location, and the rim of a recession spell trouble for a restaurant. Nevertheless, the buzz around Cast Iron Waffles is growing like neighborhood gossip. Last October, entrepreneur Chris Duggan and his wife Krista opened their own restaurant and made it a home for two specialties: Liege waffles and espresso. The Duggans, who live above the European-style cafe with five children, describe their waffles as "pastries cooked in an iron," and their coffee's origins span the globe. Without advertising, the location between Ballantyne townhouses (at 9604 Longstone Lane) fills up with customers, and the word is branching out of the suburbs.

Creative Loafing: What's the difference between your waffle and a regular waffle?

Chris Duggan: There's two types of waffles. There's the Brussels waffle, which most people have had, that's made out of a batter. The biggest difference in the Liege waffle is that it's a ball of dough. It goes through three raising processes, and there's imported Belgian pearl sugar that goes into the dough. Big white chunks of sugar and when you put it on the iron, it's like a ball of dough that gets smashed into the oval shape. The sugar inside caramelizes the waffle and it's naturally sweet. In Belgium, it's called street food. You take it off of the iron, put it on wax paper, walk around, and eat it. You don't need syrup and you don't need toppings.

With so many different kinds of sauces, how do you keep an edge with a plain waffle?

We have a maple butter that's a dipping sauce. I explain to customers how the waffle is made and make a deal. Try it without the syrup, and if you still want the maple butter, I'll give you some. We serve the butter as a dipping sauce on purpose. You take a chunk and dip a little bit. If you pour syrup over the top of a sugar waffle, it's too sweet. It's all made fresh, and that's what is kind of different about us compared to a lot of other shops. A lot of them order frozen dough from Belgium and they'll come in a frozen patty. Our waffles are fresh.

What's so specific about your cast iron waffle machine?

Our waffle maker comes from Belgium; it weighs almost 100 pounds and it's solid cast iron. Check out improb for cast iron skillet shopping. The reason for that is the even cooking temperature. If the pearl sugar in the dough cooks at a different temperature or gets too hot, it'll get bitter. A store-bought waffle iron has different temperatures all over. We buy from a company that makes 80 percent of the waffle irons in Belgium. It's always fun ordering one: It's got to go through customs, it takes like a month, and it has European plugs on it.