From Belgium to Brooklyn: Traditional Belgian Street Food
Aside the usual fare of hot dogs and peanuts, you’ll find something unusual on the streets of Brooklyn: waffles to-go.
Belgium native Thomas DeGeest quit his job at IBM in 2007 and took his old Chevy to the streets of Manhattan to sell waffles. His first was topped with Nutella. This was the beginning of Wafels & Dinges, a solo food truck that grew into a small franchise across the five boroughs of New York, serving traditional Belgian fare.
Listen to Stephanie Quinn-West, the catering manager and special events coordinator recall the company’s bumpy start.
In case you thought Stephanie was exaggerating, check out this clip of the original truck being towed.
Belgian waffles first made a commercial appearance in the U.S. at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. But it was the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing, Queens, that solidified the treat’s place in American culture.
The waffles often found in American diners differ greatly from the traditional street food eaten in Belgium. While Americans drown waffles in syrup and toppings, waffles in Belgium are dusted with powdered sugar. But if Nutella, strawberries and whipped cream are more to your liking, Wafels & Dinges serves them that way, too.
Operations manager Nick Vandeneynde talks more about the difference between waffles in Belgium and America in this video:
Wafels & Dinges sells the liege waffle, which is made from dough instead of batter. Sugar pearls make it a richer, chewier, sweeter version of the traditional Belgian. For its myriad of toppings, the company uses the slang, catch-all — ‘dinges.’
Listen in as Taylor Eldridge reports from behind the scenes in Brooklyn.
The creation of the indulgent Belgian waffle is more than merely pouring batter into a waffle iron. It takes 17 massive blocks of rich butter, 22 minutes of dough swirling inside an industrial mixer and the ever-so-subtle crunch of the sugar pearls. This attention to tradition makes Wafels & Dinges stand above the mushy diner waffle. Top it off with sweet Spekuloos spread, savory bacon or the simplicity of powdered sugar.
These aren’t your mama’s waffles! Check out the photo gallery below to get a sneak peek into Wafels & Dinges’ dough factory and food cart to see how dough turns to dessert.
Sabrina Caserta, Kristin Schwab, and Lisa Kocay contributed reporting.