Belgian wafels are making their way into the five boroughs by Wafels & Dinges,’ from originally selling out of a food truck in 2007 to now having two trucks, multiple cabanas, carts, and a recently opened flagship café in the East Village. Thomas Degeest, a Belgium native, President and CEO of Wafels & Dinges and Special Envoy for Wafels on behalf of the Belgian Ministry of Culinary Affairs, has made it his mission to serve Belgian wafels that are both authentic and distinct since starting his business.
“I think the quality of our wafels is unmatched in New York and if not America. I’ve done my research,” and “it is a comforting food,” said Degeest.
Wafels & Dinges’ yellow, black and grey concessionaires can be seen at Bryant Park, Herald Square and Brooklyn Borough Hall. Their wafel carts are throughout the city at multiple Central Park sites, Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Bridge and the Museum of Natural History. Since the beginning of the year till now, they have sold an estimated 50,000 wafels. To meet the demand of their customers, Wafles & Dinges’ Brooklyn based production facility, which opened in 2010, produces upwards of 4,000 to 6,000 wafels in one production day.
The idea to have Wafels & Dinges cabanas in New York City parks stems from Belgian Culture. “The idea of a kiosk is much closer to how we eat wafels in Belgium, because in Belgium wafels are a street food,” and they are convenient to customers in a recreational mindset, Degeest said.
Operating concessionaires simultaneously in different parks is not unusual. However, it is a competitive selection process for business owners to acquire a park permit.
Wafels & Dinges’ “ability to do so is largely dependent on the strength of their business and their actively proposing multiple locations,” said Howard Crystal, a representative from the New York City Parks and Recreation Department.
The Wafels & Dinges’ East Village brick and mortar café is where you can get all they have to offer, including their seasonal favorites. Downtown had the opportunity to try their ‘Chili Con Corne,’ a cornmeal wafel topped with chili, cheddar cheese, sour cream and cilantro, which has been a seasonal favorite for the past five years. A new seasonal item named the ‘Southern Belle’ debuted this winter. A hash brown wafel topped with a sausage patty and sausage gravy, served with Vermont maple syrup. These savory wafels are delectable. They’re also sold at Wafels & Dinges’ trucks, but will only be available to indulge in through April 30th.
In Belgium, wafels are traditionally sweet. When starting his company, Degeest was reluctant to the idea of having a savory wafel. Until, a customer appeared making their own creation, with pulled pork and coleslaw, which was once previously featured on the menu.
The ideas for their savory wafels usually come from staff or customers, “and customers are very passionate about the ideas they have,” Degeest said.
However, savory wafels make up a small fraction of their total sales. Their sweet wafels dominate, also referred to as ‘de legendary wafels.’ Popular among them is the ‘de throw down,’ a wafel with spekulous spread, whipped cream and spekulous cookie crumble, infamous for its win on “Throwdown with Bobby Flay,” on the Food Network. Widely enjoyed is their ‘de world’s fair wafel,’ the classic 1964 Belgian wafel topped with strawberries and whipped cream.
Holly Ferguson, a Brooklyn resident tried her first wafel at the 1964 World Fair in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, where the Belgian wafel was first introduced to New York.
“I had my first one many, many years ago, it was called a Belgian wafel, and it had lots of whip cream, yum, yum, and lots of strawberries,” Ferguson said. She is a frequenter at the Brooklyn Borough Hall kiosk.
Belgian wafels have been a favorite in NYC parks since its introduction at the 1964 World’s Fair and continues to be a sweet delight among New Yorkers. Wafels & Dinges continues the Belgium tradition of making sweetly crafted wafels, while maintaining high quality of the food they provide to patrons throughout the city.
Continuing to expand, Wafles & Dinges is now bringing its beloved wafel to their customers, offering delivery services through Grub Hub and Seamless, as well as catering; offering the option of their wafel truck or wafel buffet.
Check out their East Village café in the downtown area.
-by Mariah Brown, @MariahBrownNYC