Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Liege-Style Waffle Shop Coming to Temescal

By John Birdsall
Tue, Jun 28, 2011 at 10:30 AM

Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood could get its very own Liege-style waffle shop by the end of the year. Owner Peter Fikaris received the last batch of permits to finish his gut rehab of the long-vacant shotgun space at 4140 Telegraph Avenue, which he'll call Waffle Boss.

Don’t know the Liege waffle? It’s a street snack born in Belgium, buttery dough shot through with coarse sugar that half melts during baking, caramelizing along its outer surfaces. It's on the brink of achieving cult status in San Francisco, via SOMA cafe Star Stream, Bloem 'n Sugar in the Westfield mall, and other recent arrivals.

The long-vacant space on Telegraph is transforming slowly.
  • John Birdsall
  • The long-vacant space on Telegraph is coming along slowly.

Fikaris, who's working as a counter guy at Berkeley’s Sweet Adeline Bakeshop while he does the shop’s buildout, said he’s finished the recipe-testing phase (Sweet Adeline’s Jennifer Millar lent help and advice). He’ll make his own pearl sugar — the white, seedlike bits essential to true Liege-style waffles — embedded in a dough rich with butter, leavened with fresh (not dried) yeast, cooked in a Belgian-made cast-iron machine.

Fikaris plans to offer flavored waffles (chocolate chip, blueberry), as well as adaptations like cinnamon-pecan waffle rolls, ice cream sandwiches, and shortcake-style fruit constructions with lemon curd and whipped cream, even cookies baked on the waffle iron. Also: savory interpretations, things like grilled cheese waffle sandwiches, plus a vegan waffle, though it’ll contain regular (i.e., bone char-processed) sugar.

Nailing together the outlines of a menu has been the easy part. It’s transforming the narrow, 1,000-square-foot space that’s taken longer than Fikaris hoped it would.

Fikaris thinks the space was an Italian restaurant back in the Fifties. Far as he can tell, it may have been some sort of annex for the storefront next door — now the East Bay Church of Religious Science — when it was a lesbian bar in the 1970s. He gutted it of water-damaged lath-and-plaster walls, then — partly because he couldn’t afford a dumpster to heave it all into — sanded the strips of lath to use for the counter and partition wall. Fikaris scored other materials from Urban Ore. “It’s eclectic,” he said of the emerging design.

Besides Sweet Adeline, help and support have come from other local businesses, including Remedy and Bakesale Betty, where Fikaris once worked. That’s partly why Fikaris is hoping he can do a sort of soft opening for the neighborhood sometime late this year. “I just want to make it feel like a good neighborhood bakery,” Fikaris said. “Like an old Belgian waffle bakery.”

Get in touch at John.Birdsall@EastBayExpress.com, and follow me on Twitter @John_Birdsall.

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