Bruges Waffles & Frites
336 W. Broadway (300 South), Salt Lake City ; 801-363-4444
The menu is short and sweet, yet the made-from-scratch fries have an addictive crispness that sets this shop apart.
Cuisine: European, Cafe
Hours: M-Th, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; F, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; S, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
Corkage: $ 0
Reservations: Not accepted/necessary
Recommended Dishes: Bruges and Lieges waffles, frites.
July 29, 2009
Bruges offers short, sweet Belgium-flavored menu, sidewalk dining and addictive fries.
By Vanessa Chang
It's the time of year when I can never manage to go an hour without perspiring or ponder the practicality of clothing that I crave the strangest things. I say "strange" because you'd figure that someone who suffers through desert heat yearns for nothing but salads. But visions of cucumbers and baby spinach are few and far between.
No, just when the sun is at its most merciless, something within my belly conjures up the spirits of crusty fruit pies and mayo-infused potato salads. I'm probably not alone with this ironic fatty fixation. We -- the gluttons, gourmands and everyone in between -- are a masochistic lot.
I can recall eating with Southern friends at numerous church picnics where hand-held fans fluttered like insect wings or at family meals when an army of electric fans cooled us between sips of lemonade and forkfuls of hot pulled pork and biscuits. Even in triple-degree heat, no one can refuse a platter of pulled pork, not even vegetarians.
Oh, the lengths we go to for the unctuous, belly-filling satisfaction of fat. And our dining habits are no different. For instance, sweltering July might not like seem like the optimal time to bite into a dense, sweet, freshly-ironed waffle at Bruges Waffles and Frites. But bite people do.
In sundresses. In T-shirts. Or, during the week, in button-downs and ties. They eat the waffles by hand or with plastic knives and forks when they can score a sidewalk table next to the hum of traffic. The interior is little more than the kitchen and counter seating -- a waiting room for fry fanatics and waffle lovers.
What makes Bruges so intriguing? Think of it as the culinary equivalent of the hot foreign exchange student movie character, the one that disrupts the straight-laced family in the film. It's lusty, exotic and more sophisticated than its anemic cousin, the Eggo waffle.
Bruges is a Belgian city in a very small country. It has two official languages, and judging by the Salt Lake City Bruges' offerings, at least two types of waffles. The fluffy hearted, crisply shelled Bruges ($3) is slightly more familiar in shape and texture and downright adorable when topped with fresh raspberries and powdered sugar (an additional $3).
The denser, round Lieges ($3) is more enjoyable in cinnamon form (the other option being vanilla dough) and reaches near-pastry status topped with crème fraiche and fresh strawberries (an additional $3).
Freshness is key. That's one of the reasons there's always a wait -- the waffles are baked/ironed to order. Same goes for the frites (that's "fries" to you and me -- small $3; medium $5; and large $8).
Proprietor/native Belgian Pierre Vandamme enthusiastically proclaims to first-timers that his fries come from potatoes -- and nothing but.
Deep-fried potatos are universally appealing. Particularly when dressed simply with salt, then cradled into a white paper cone to take away or to plant into a wire cone, bistro-style.
Bruges' Belgian frites shatter like the perfect potato chip under your teeth before melting into a fluffy interior. You lose a bit of that appealing contrast with the additional heft of a meaty Flemish stew ($9; $6 a la carte). There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
Also, inconsistency is an issue during lunch hours when everyone is clamoring to get their frites and waffles to-go. Whether eating in or taking out, be aware that during peak times I've experienced longer wait times and have witnessed frustration and impatience from my fellow fry fanatics.
Much to Bruges' credit, the owner and his young staff sweat it out gracefully with Vandamme always managing to be polite. Meanwhile, cars will drive past you with radios and engines blaring, while pedestrians will walk by and longingly stare. This is the cadence and clamor of casual street-side dining.
A large frites order ($8) is roughly the size and shape of a Miss America rose bouquet and, should the need arise, you could easily feed a small country village. But three greedy people can decimate an order including the complementary mayo-based dipping sauces (65 cents). There's garlicky aioli, tangy lemon dill, herby chive and the spicy Samurai. Yes, there are even ketchup and fry sauce, but when in Bruges, do as the Belgians do and go all-out with the fat.
And after you've had the waffles and the frites, there will be another belly-filling challenge. There's talk of a new menu item: A frites sandwich. Essentially it's a baguette filled with a fried sausage (there's no grill), a pile of fresh frites and the Mediterranean-flair of the Andalouse mayo sauce.
My bet is that even if it debuts before the end of summer, folks won't be able to help themselves. It does seem like the ultimate portable complete meal. I myself am drooling at the prospect.
I know a few folks, myself included, who are drooling at the prospect. But then again, that could just be the sweat on our brow.
Tribune's rating system
1 star Good
2 stars Very good
3 stars Excellent
4 stars Extraordinary
$ Entree under $10
$$$$ Above $25
1 bell Quiet (under 65 decibles)
2 bells Can talk easily (65-70)
3 bells Talking somewhat difficult (70-75)
4 bells Raised voices (75-80)
A bomb Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
The Tribune covers the cost of all meals at reviewed restaurants. Star ratings are based on a minimum of two visits. Ratings are updated continually based on at least one revisit. There is no connection between reviews and advertising.