Food review: What the Waffle in the King-Lincoln District serves tasty food at reasonable prices

G.A. Benton
Special to The Columbus Dispatch
Steak and eggs at What the Waffle in the King-Lincoln District.

In a nutshell, What the Waffle sells food that is fun to eat for terrific prices. Examine that shell, though, and you will discover that What the Waffle is newsworthy for numerous other reasons, too.

It’s a Black female-owned business in the King-Lincoln District whose owner, Gayle Troy, champions community-minded causes and makes it a point to employ and train young women aging out of the foster care system.

Although it’s a compact operation that serves only takeout food, What the Waffle — which opened last summer amid widespread protests prompted by the killing of George Floyd — offers an impactful interior enlivened by the work of artist Adriane McMillon.

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McMillon’s skillful contributions include paintings of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on one knee (echoing a famous photograph taken during the Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, march); Rosa Parks waiting at a bus stop; and Muhammad Ali pierced with arrows like Renaissance depictions of St. Sebastian. McMillon also designed a large chalkboard wall, with “WAFFLE” written in glittering dimensional letters, that customers can express themselves on.

The eatery’s soundtrack, which usually features tunes played in the key of smooth jazz, sets an easygoing tone commensurate with the upbeat and super-friendly place’s amusing name and menu. Make that menus — multiple versions are offered for breakfast, lunch, weekend-only brunch, sides and more. (I suggest scrutinizing all menus online before arriving.)

What the Benny from the weekend brunch menu

Whenever and whatever you order, though, expect a bargain and, well, waffles. See, the restaurant's namesake items — scratch-made if rather soft but good-tasting (malty, with a hint of cinnamon), deeply pouched and sizable Belgian-style waffles — appear in nearly every dish.

A waffle wedge serves as an upgrade to plain old toast in one of the best deals in town for steak & eggs. Just $13 bought that waffle segment plus a juicy piece of good grill-marked strip steak, two eggs, house breakfast potatoes (roasted redskin cubes), al dente roasted Brussels sprouts and a beef-compatible creamy horseradish sauce.

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The What the Benny ($12) was another large and hard-to-beat value of a brunch dish. This ocean-kissed play on eggs Benedict had a properly poached egg, loads of flaky baked salmon, tangy hollandaise sauce, fish roe, breakfast potatoes, an overachieving arugula salad and, stepping in for English muffins, flavorful herbed waffles.

Waffles replace bread products in other dishes, too. These include a heavy-duty meatball sandwich (the Tony, $7) that was hard to handle but easy to like with its homemade meatballs, marinara and multiple cheeses — some crisped into frico; and an extremely loose interpretation of the classic open-faced Louisville-born sandwich called the Hot Brown ($7.25), here made with a full waffle topped with tender grilled chicken slabs and crisp bacon strips drenched in a nacho-esque cheese sauce.  

The Raykale Caesar salad

Waffle bits even show up as croutons — surprisingly crisp, light and successful ones — in the Raykale Caesar salad ($5.50). A waffle specialist might sound like an odd place to get a Caesar salad, but this was a respectable rendition: relatively tender greens enhanced by a lemony, creamy and pleasantly pungent dressing.

A waffle specialist might sound like a fine place to get a bacon-egg-and-cheese waffle “sandwich” ($7.45), or chicken and waffles (the Waddy, $9.50), and it was. Both were enjoyable, but I’d give the edge to the dish with the excellent chicken tenders.

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If you just want a waffle ($5), it’ll arrive dusted in powdered sugar and with a small container of DIY syrup. Characteristically, it’s plenty of food, but if you are sharing or are super hungry, the cheesy grits ($2.50) is a rib-sticking side dish that is — also characteristic for this restaurant — easy to like and irresistibly inexpensive.   

At a glance

Where: What the Waffle

Location: 695 E. Long St., King-Lincoln District

Contact: 614-622-3865,