In the six months since its debut, Waffles INCaffeinated has grown into South Side’s most innovative and in-demand breakfast locale. The restaurant puts a new twist on traditional breakfast comfort foods for a result that is anything but typical.
The East Carson storefront opens into a sharply designed breakfast boutique where patrons are greeted by aromas of waffle batter and freshly brewed coffee à la Beaver Falls Coffee & Tea. The mouth-watering menu offers pancakes, crepes, omelets and sandwiches, but the specialty waffles are what draw the crowds.
One fan favorite, the Megaberry waffle, has ripe blueberry and raspberry-filled batter with your choice of house made vanilla bean, bourbon, or maple syrup on top. Another hot item, the Funky Monkey waffle, features chocolate chip batter, fresh bananas, and house made peanut butter chiffon. During my visit, I opted for two American classics done Waffles INC style.
First, the Breakfast Magic waffle—which lived up to its name—was a full sourdough waffle sporting a crisp exterior and a fluffy interior. The warm, doughy waffle served as an ideal canvas for the green onions, shredded cheddar, and bacon that were mixed into the batter, creating a trifecta of savory flavors. Crowned with a fried egg and sour cream on the side, this dish will please any true breakfast-phile.
Second came the Benny waffle, which is a reimagining of the classic Eggs Benedict dish like you have never seen before. Two poached eggs sit atop thick slices of sweet ham, and mounds of succulent crab meat. A half-waffle drizzled with the restaurant’s rich Hollandaise sauce and sprinkled with green onion serves as the base. The waffle soaks up the Hollandaise perfectly while the egg, ham, and crab create an unexpectedly delicious flavor combination.
We recently had the opportunity to catch up with one of the women behind the waffle, Cassandra Cuddy, who is an owner/partner of the business (alongside Josh Cuddy, Gordon Sheffer, and founder/Chef Tahj Merriman). The most important meal of the day was obviously a point of conversation:
What led to the decision of a restaurant specializing in breakfast food—or more on point, specializing in waffles?
Waffles are a comfort food from childhood for Chef Tahj Merriman (founder of Waffles INCaffeinated) and me. The sourdough batter we make in house is based on the recipe our grandmother used to make for us growing up. It’s been passed down to our mothers, then to us, and now we are sharing it with as many people as we can! With Chef Tahj’s worldly experience in the culinary field and his “push the limits” creativity when it comes to food, to him it only made perfect sense to take the waffle’s sense of relatability and to use that to push people way past their comfort zone and encourage them to expand their palates and their minds. As far as choosing breakfast—why not! In a world of restaurants specializing mostly in dinner, it’s been so much fun coming up with new menu ideas and trying to bring a whole new identity to breakfast as a whole. Why not have a “date morning” instead of a “date night?” Breakfast is like the final frontier in the culinary world and we aren’t scared!
Waffles INCaffeinated’s original New Brighton restaurant opened in 2010. Why did you decide upon the South Side for the second location?
We have been fortunate enough to have a following of people willing to make the trek from the city of Pittsburgh on a regular basis to frequent our New Brighton location, so naturally it was a favorable choice for a second location. We have been so lucky to have a support system there to welcome us with open arms and it means the world to us to be among some of the best restaurants in the city, and to be part of a community that appreciates culture, diversity, creativity and that has a palate favorable to what we are trying to accomplish, which is something unlike anything else out there!
What seems to be the most popular menu item?
We have a few faves, such as the Mega Berry, Funky Monkey and Breakfast magic, but our Waffles Imaginated menu is quite popular! It gives our guests the creative license to dream up whatever concoction of goodness they like from our extensive list of mix-ins and toppings. We have everything from peanut butter chiffon, ice cream, and fresh fruit to avocado, smoked salmon and even gummy bears!
What’s your favorite menu item?
That’s hard, even for me! As much as I can’t get enough of our waffles, I absolutely crave our waffle pressed French toast piled high with fresh fruit and nuts with our signature honey mascarpone spread! I’d say that’s tied with our Croque Monsieur. I know I’m biased and all, but it’s amazing!
There are some unique/experimental choices on the menu. How are these thought up and brought to life?
Of course Chef Tahj Merriman is responsible for the majority of our creative dishes, but also every month we pass the creativity baton over to our head chefs and encourage them to take the freshest ingredients in season and push them to the absolute limit and create a waffle inspired dish—sometimes sweet, sometimes savory, and almost always differing from store to store. We love taking ingredients that seem like an unlikely pair and marrying them together in perfect union! If it’s popular enough, sometimes it even makes itself to the permanent menu! We have even had contests that have landed our employees favorite creations on our menu, like the Specialist Mcgee!
There are two thriving Waffles INC locations—is there a secret to the success or a motto you work by?
Really we just try to do what we do and do it the best we can. We love what we are doing for breakfast, which is really recognizing its potential and showing people that it’s not just eggs and bacon. We use as many fresh ingredients as we can and prepare as many items in house as we possibly can to ensure freshness and quality. We have a great team that works together to do our best to create a desirable environment and to send each one of our guests home having had a one of a kind experience that they want to enjoy time and time again!
Given the success of the two current locations, are there plans in the future for a third location? Any wishes for where this would be?
When owner/partners Tahj Merriman and Josh Cuddy return from their current tour in Afghanistan, we are hoping to take our success to all new levels of expansion. Waffles INCaffeinated is ready to take over the breakfast world! We have been so blessed to have such an amazing and supportive base that we would love to be a part of any community that would have us.
What are some things that the public may not know about Waffles INCaffeinated?
Waffles INCaffeinated prides itself on being a veteran owned business and we try whenever we can to involve other local small businesses in our operations. We use local Coffee roasters for our coffee beans and try to use recycled products in not only our day to day operations, but in the design and rehab of our spaces as well.
What lies in the future for the restaurant?
Waffles INCaffeinated is proud to announce our new “brinner” (breakfast for dinner) menu coming this summer! We will be adding some brand new savory dishes along with everyone’s faves and will be expanding our hours to execute this concept. We absolutely can’t wait to take the most important meal of the day and make it important ALL day!
Whether you’re interested in a “date morning,” a unique take on breakfast, or just an incredibly delicious meal, plan on stopping by Waffles INCaffeinated in the near future. There may be a wait for tables during the weekend, but the waffles are well worth it.
2517 E. Carson Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
Hours: Tue.-Fri. 7 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
Photography: Julia Santilli :: Chancelor Humphrey
**ALL MENU ITEMS LISTED IN THIS ARTICLE ARE TRADEMARKS OF WAFFLES INCAFFEINATED**