I’ve had waffles as thin as pencils and waffles as thick as pie. I’ve had Swedish waffles, and Norwegian ones, and waffles that don’t hail from countries but from frozen cardboard boxes. More than I care to, I’ve had waffles with soft, pitiful edges. I’ve also had ones that were tough enough to scrape the buds from my tongue. And once—only once—I had a waffle that was perfect.
That’s not to say other waffles didn’t come close. The waffle at Tweet(5020 N Sheridan Rd, 773-728-5576; $7) is damn fine: tanned like an Alaskan in Hawaii and hiding an airy, fluffy middle. Were the edges crisp? Ish. They could have been crisper. But this thing was sweet enough not to need syrup. And that’s pretty sweet.
Likewise, the waffle at Tempo(6 E Chestnut St, 312-943-4373; $6.75) needs nothing more than a slather of soft butter and a schmear of this Greek diner’s housemade marmalade. It’s not Belgian in looks—it takes the rounded shape of a flower—but it’s Belgian in style. (To that point, every good waffle is Belgian in style. All others are nothing but dysmorphic pancakes.) Compared to some others, this waffle’s flavor was more muted. Subtler, if we’re being nice. But it’s crispy as all get out. Cap’n Crunch? You’re just a waffle’s bitch now.
But put these two in a cage match with the malted specimen at Lou Mitchell’s(565 W Jackson Blvd, 312-939-3111; $6.50) and they don’t stand a chance. This mother cried out for syrup, not because it lacked flavor but because its rich tang was begging for a foil. With an exterior that cracked upon contact with a fork, an interior that was soft and warm, and a flavor that struck notes akin to buttermilk and yeast, it was the waffle I’d hoped existed. Complex. Intricate. Ultimately just a waffle—but the only one you’ll ever need.