Aimee and Brandon Harper tried their first Liege wafel during a hiking trip out west. The married couple fell in love with the particular style of Belgian waffle and wondered why the food industry in their hometown of Columbus had not yet picked up on this specialty market.
Two and a half years later, Belgian Iron Wafel Company will open its doors to the public Saturday in the Short North at 19 W. Russell St.
“What we saw while on vacation was kind of a dialed-down version of what we’re doing today,” Aimee Harper said. “We thought we could make this something so different and unique. When we tried this wafel we saw it as a base to build on — it was a template.”
Even though the attorney and her husband, a real estate agent, each work full time, that didn’t stop the gears from turning when they returned from their vacation. Immediately, they began talking, strategizing and eventually planning their very own wafel joint, she said.
Differing from a classic Belgian waffle, other than its spelling, the Liege wafel is made from fresh dough rather than a liquid batter and topped with caramelized sugar. Belgian Iron Wafel Company has more than 11 variations of the Liege wafel, both sweet and savory and everything in between.
“It can go from a breakfast dish all the way to dinner dish,” Aimee Harper said. “We’ve got this Beligan mushroom one — it’s vegetarian — but I’m telling you, you feel like you’re eating steak, it’s so good.”
She said the restaurant is limited-service, so the customer will order food at the counter, sit down and wait for the food to be delivered to their table.
The menu is armed with a coffee and espresso section and boasts a mini wafel flight option in which guests can mix and match three different styles. Guests can also personalize the dishes to cater to dietary needs and preferences.
While the couple searched for a restaurant location, she began playing with ingredients, Aimee Harper said. After a year of experimenting, she finally perfected what became the restaurant’s proprietary dough recipe.
“I worked and worked and work at it,” she said. “It’s a very technical recipe — you add certain ingredients at certain times [and] at certain temperatures to get the right temperature and consistency.”
The dough will be made in-house on a daily basis.
The restaurant also offers a gluten-free and vegan wafel, a recipe Harper created with a biochemist and an endocrinologist who specializes in food sensitivities.
Harper said she asked for help because she didn’t want to do a gluten-free product without knowing the creation process and understanding the community of people that is affected by gluten allergies or gluten sensitivity.
“I didn’t want to be a poser,” she said. “I didn’t want to do a gluten-free product without actually knowing what I was doing with it.”
Harper said opening day will be a huge achievement as their passion project will officially come to life. Until then, she and her husband will be working day and night to ensure the success of their shared dream.
“It’s a huge milestone,” she said. “We’re very excited.”