Many mornings on the road begin with you lying in bed wondering what to do that day.
On this particular morning, I was in Bruges.
The thing about Bruges is it’s kind of uneventful, to be honest. Other than looking at cathedrals, most tourists tend to spend the day doing one of three things – eating Belgian fries, drinking Belgian beer, or eating Belgian waffles – usually all three.
I figured while I was here, maybe I should at least try one of them. But which?
Well fries and beer – that didn’t really excite me. But waffles…that sounded like it might be fun. Even the word itself is fun – waffles. Sounds a bit like happiness.
Deciding that I was indeed going to eat waffles took around an hour. The next two hours was about deciding which waffle to eat. I lay in my bunk bed, procrastinating about brushing my teeth, abusing Google reviews and making a shortlist of the waffle spots that were worthy of my hard earned euros.
This turned out to be a poor idea. Google, like feelings, just complicated things. By the time both my arms were numb I had a list of not one, but seven different waffle places that required attention.
Now I had to do was something I try to avoid as often as possible: Make a decision.
Or did I?
That’s when I came up with an idea – one so genius I even surprised myself. Instead of forcing myself to commit to one waffle, why don’t I just try all seven?
Thus began my day of waffle promiscuity in the wonderful city of Bruges.
It was almost 1 p.m. when I finally managed to put pants on and get out the door. I was staying deep in a corner of town, so it was a decently long walk to my first waffle. A walk through Bruges can feel somewhat odd at first glance, a bit like a theme park. I don’t even think any Belgian people live here – just hoards of tourists who came to see what Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson were raving on about.
So what’s the verdict? Well, there are big cathedrals and churches, and many old, medieval-looking buildings to either side of you; very pretty indeed. I’m not sure what kind of architecture it is – maybe French? Dutch? To be honest unless it’s a Japanese pagoda, I can never really tell the difference. I’m sure they’d have told me on the free walking tour – aka the tour where I tip a guy so I can follow him around and beg for it to end – but I never found the time to go.
It takes me around twenty minutes to arrive at my first waffle spot – Chez Albert (Breidelstraat 16) – which came highly recommended on the highly reliable internet.
This place looked a bit like a waffle hot dog stand – nice colourful menu and a long queue. I waited patiently while taxing my brain, trying to decide which waffle would have the honour of kicking this tour off.
In the end, my mind asked for berries but my heart asked for chocolate and fresh cream. I’m not sure what my heart was thinking, because that was the absolute last type of waffle I needed to start the day.
While delicious, eating this on an empty stomach was a terrible idea. The sudden sugar hit smacked me like a brick. And I still had a lot of waffling ahead of me.
This waffle is reasonably thick and decently fluffy inside. Not a super crunchy crust, but firm, like a well crisped French toast. You get a choice of milk or dark chocolate. Lots of cream. €4.50. Verdict? Okay.
To be honest, that was more than enough waffle to keep me satisfied for the day (maybe even the week). This is where I should tell you I don’t have a sweet tooth at all, I can barely finish a full sized Magnum. But unfortunately, in my mind I had committed to bedding seven waffles (it seemed a lot easier in my imagination). Stubbornness being one of my less savoury character traits, it was onto the next.
The next target on the hitlist was a place called Fred’s (Markt 20) which was a short five minute walk away.
That was good, because it meant I had the chance to burn eleven of the 300 calories I’d just consumed.
Fred’s is also a little takeaway booth, more like an ice cream shop with a waffle section. Or I suppose it could also be a waffle shop with a good selection of ice cream. Whichever way the prose excites you.
Not too sure what my logic was, but I figured after all that cream and chocolate, maybe a scoop of vanilla ice cream would help balance things out.
Of course I was wrong, it just made my stomach curdle like a washing machine. I still enjoyed the first bite, but the next eight had me regretting ever Googling waffles in the first place.
Chewier than the previous one with a bit more glaze. Although the flavour itself was more or less the same. Ice cream was super mild vanilla. €3.50. Verdict? Also just okay.
Now I was really hurting for something healthy. The frontrunner to serve this purpose was The Gingerbread Tea Room (Sint-Amandsstraat 29), a short walk across the Old Town. How exciting. Maybe I could get a waffle with some fresh berries – an antioxidant waffle, if you like – and a hot cup of overpriced detox tea.
From the outside, Gingerbread Tea Room looked like exactly my kind of place – quiet, relaxed, not too full, lots of small tables for solo travellers trying to find themselves. The waiter, who also seemed to be the owner, was very pleasant and welcoming.
Only one thing on the menu jumped out at me – the fresh seasonal fruit waffle. I could already feel my fruity 5-a-day vitamins going to battle with all the cream in my colon.
“Does this come with cream or chocolate or anything?” I asked him.
“Yes, it does.”
“Can I have it with just fruit? Like no cream or anything else.”
“Yes, of course.”
Boom. I was only two waffles in and struggling, but I knew this one would restore the balance. I’ll get some vitamins to the brain, we’ll be three waffles down – after the next one we’ll be past halfway! Surely the guts will be hurting, but if you want to achieve big dreams, you gotta hurt a little. Nothing good in life comes easy, including diabetes.
But then the hurt really began. Words cannot express the sword I felt through the heart when my waffle arrived. It was like when you meet that Tinder date and her teeth aren’t quite as straight as she had let on. I’m not sure if there’s a secret agenda in Bruges to give everyone heart disease, but my delicious assortment of antioxidant filled fruit was violated with…icing sugar.
It took me a while to re-motivate myself, but after three deep inhalations, I counted my blessings and regained my composure. After all, they’re still kind of straight, right? Maybe there’s a great personality under that icing sugar. Give it a chance.
Luckily I had my 4 euro cup of spiced tea, like that motivating best friend, every few minutes just egging you along. In the end, we got through it, my tea and I. Despite the fact I was already on waffle overload, it actually wasn’t bad at all.
The waffle here was much lighter and crisper than the previous two. It is also quite flavoursome, tastes like a waffle smells (does that make sense?) and is quite a bit bigger too. Lots of fruit. Menu overall is great and good service as well. €9.50. Verdict? Pretty good.
Now that my tongue was feeling like an abused piece of sugar cane, I needed something savoury to inspire me into the second half of this mission.
Luckily, I was prepared for this moment.
Like a battlefield general, I had strategically placed the only savoury waffle in Bruges right in the middle of my siege. It was a moment of brilliance, a little planning tactic I learned from Sun Tzu’s Art Of War. Now it was time to reap the rewards of my foresight. It was off to House of Waffles for some savoury waffle magic.
Yet as I arrived at the door, I was stabbed through the heart for the second time in thirty minutes.
The door was closed. All the lights were off. It just so happened that on the most random day of the week (Wednesday), House of Waffles had its day off. My visions of guacamole and tomatoes melted into tears that ran down the edge of my cheeks (not really) while I contemplated this turn of events and how to best regroup.
The truth is, we all face obstacles in pursuit of our dreams. In this case, an incompetent waffle store manager who decides to only open six days a week and chooses Wednesday, of all days, to close his store in the middle of a tourist mecca. I mean, at least make it on a Sunday so you can lie and tell everyone you’re at church. That’s Deliquency 101. But let me impart an Instagram quote on you that I’m sure you’ve never heard before. Life is not about how many times you succeed. It’s about how many times you fall and pick yourself back up again.
Let me tell you how I picked myself back up again.
All I needed to do was trick my brain into telling myself I’d succeeded when I’d obviously failed. Since I had my first waffle at 2 pm, all that was required was to eat this waffle before 2 pm the next day. Technically I would still have eaten 7 waffles in one day, and could deem this mission a paper success. That would work, right? I mean Achilles probably didn’t even whoop Hector that bad at Troy, just got a lucky stab or something. Maybe even did some illegal eye gouging in the first round. But in the history books, Achilles always gives Hector an A-grade ass whooping. When I tell my kids this waffle story, I’ll be sure the technicalities get lost in the history books too.
Next on this now rubber victory mission was Oyya (Noordzandstraat 1).
I’m not quite sure why I kept Oyya on the list, because it looked just like another Chez Albert or Fred’s. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they all have the same owner and just use a different wallpaper for each place.
By now I was in dire straits with my waffling ability so I ordered the bare minimum – a plain waffle with absolutely nothing. I didn’t even want the napkins or the paper bag, because they smelled like waffles and even that was giving me a migraine.
But as I took the waffle from the kind man, I tried to see the positive in this self-inflicted dilemma. I reminded myself that I’m working. I’m working. Technically, eating waffles is my job. How can you complain about that? I mean life could be so much worse.
Then again, life could also be so much better. I let out a groan and ate the damn waffle.
Interestingly, the first bite of every waffle still tastes awesome. It’s the bites that follow that start causing hypertension. But with a little pep talk I get through this one too.
This waffle seemed much softer and much more doughy than the others on the inside, but still has a decent glaze on it. Slightly sweeter too. €2.50. Verdict? Also just okay.
Next on the list was a joint called I Love Waffles (Katelijnestraat 26). Ironic, since all I could think about was how much I hated waffles. Nonetheless, my intestines and I soldiered on.
Once inside, it was refreshing to see it was a bit different from the other places.
This is more like one of those frozen yogurt places where you order your waffle and then ruin it with too many sprinkles and toppings from the goodies section. The photo of the strawberry waffle looked appetising somehow, so I ordered that. I sprinkled it with some shaved almonds and went to work.
While I was eating, one of the staff on a smoke break said hi and then told me I look like Manny Pacquiao. He asked if I’m travelling alone and told me about his recent solo trip. I’d already figured he was some kind of globetrotter when he randomly started talking to me. We talked boxing while I finished the waffle, which actually went down rather easily with the refreshing dose of fresh strawberries.
This one has bit of a crunch to it, but quite chewy inside too. They also give you a crapload of strawberries on the strawberry waffle. The free toppings are a nice touch, although it’s mostly chocolate sprinkles and stuff like that. Cool little place. €4.50. Verdict: Decent.
That was five waffles down.
The final one for the afternoon was a place called Lizzie’s (Sint-Jakobsstraat). This place had rave reviews and when I walked past earlier had been packed to the brim. This was the grand finale.
As expected, it was full when I got there. I had to awkwardly squeeze onto a table next to a mother and daughter. Luckily they were very sweet and didn’t mind at all.
As for the waffles, well, the menu looks a bit fancy for a waffle place, probably to justify the, uhh, ‘ambitious’ prices. Basically it’s 7 euros for a plain waffle, and then 3-4 euros for every topping you want.
I decided to be extravagant and went for the warm cherries and fresh cream. After clogging three arteries in a day, why not go for four and become legendary?
Speaking of legendary, the Lizzie’s waffles are big, nearly the size of a pizza. It was a generous two cups of cream and cherries too.
I knew this one was going to be a challenge.
So before starting I said grace. And then I prepared for battle, drawing my knife and fork like a sword and shield. Last round, kill or be killed. Then with kung fu determination, I wolfed the thing down with low kicks and straight rights, it didn’t stand a chance. Then I closed my eyes and drowned in self pity and a future of increased life insurance premiums.
While the waffle is certainly large and oh so Instagram friendly, it falls short on the taste side. It was a little bland/dry, and tastes similar to those no-frills ice cream cones from the supermarket. This is masked with the generous sprinkle of sugar, and the generous helping of cream and extras. €13.50. It’s not terrible but for that price I was expecting to be able to take the plate home with me. Staff were lovely though. Verdict: Overpriced.
The following morning I woke up ready for the final battle. To be honest the waffles of the day before had done minimal lasting damage and I was actually looking forward to my savoury waffle breakfast (technically lunch).
I got to House Of Waffles (Wollestraat 31) and the place was packed – there was actually a queue inside. On any other day I would have just moved on but of course, circumstances and ego prevented me from doing so.
After a twenty minute wait I finally got my table. Here’s the famous savoury waffle menu:
The Mexican sounded tantalising but in the end I couldn’t pass on the BLT.
Service is quick and it was on my table within 10-15 minutes.
This thing was delicious. It’s actually like a waffle sandwich – two waffles with a mountain of bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise and an egg sandwiched between it. Very satisfying.
As a side note, I also saw a guy next to me eating the cheese waffle which looked particularly good.
Because I have now run out of adjectives to describe waffles, I will simply say these particular waffles were standard tasting Belgian waffles. They are generous with the bacon, lettuce and tomato. Overall this plate was very enjoyable, but there is a waffle novelty factor to it; it would probably be better with just some nicely toasted bread. Still something fun to try if your budget affords it. Friendly service too. €14. Verdict? Satisfying.
Afterward, I sit there and bask in the joy of conquering my seven waffle challenge. At first I feel proud, an achievement I will surely share on many first dates to come. But after some signs of indigestion and a moment of self reflection, I realise I’ve just spent 52 euros on waffles in 24 hours and need to rethink my life choices. Yay Bruges.