Who doesn’t love waffles? Along with pancakes and French toast, they’re the hallmark of a carb-heavy breakfast. And even though it’s hard to find fault with the frozen ones we heat up in our toasters, these eateries do them better than just about anyone else in America.
Waffles trace their roots back to the Middle Ages (when communion wafers were often patterned), and today they come in a few different varieties. “Belgian” waffles as we know them actually have two types: the Brussels waffle, which is light, airy, rectangular, and crisp; and the more popular Liege waffle, which is richer, denser, chewier, and sweeter. Americanized Belgian waffles (like the type found at diners) are a simplified version of the Belgian waffle, and were first popularized at the 1964 World’s Fair.
Even though all waffles are made the same way — by pouring batter into a waffle iron and letting it cook until it’s golden brown and delicious — not all waffles are created equal. An ideal waffle is super-fresh, crisp, and buttery, with a hint of sweetness. While it’s a great vessel for a host of toppings both sweet and savory, it still needs to be delicious enough to eat on its own. Many diners will reheat pre-made waffles, which will still result in one that’s perfectly fine, but doesn’t hold a candle to the real deal.
In order to assemble our ranking of the best waffles in America, we searched existing best-of lists both in print and online, but also combed through regional publications and local restaurant reviews in an effort to highlight off-the-radar spots that are legendary for their waffles. We also made a concerted effort to focus on the waffles themselves, not the toppings (this is a ranking of the best waffles, after all, not the wildest), even though creative applications certainly don’t hurt. In order to be considered, these spots need to make their own waffles from scratch to order, and to keep the playing field even, we didn’t consider chains like Waffle House and Roscoe’s.
So from a legendary New York food truck to an old-school hole in the wall in Lake Tahoe, read on to learn which 10 waffle spots are America’s best. And if after reading this you feel that the same-old toaster waffles just don’t cut it, you can find recipes to make your own waffles from scratch here, here, and here.