Before backpacking through Europe, I believed waffle indulgence meant springing for Eggos or the "bigger" cone at Baskin-Robbins. Imagine my delight when I stumbled upon Belgian waffle carts at every other street corner. I sampled cakey squares smothered with fresh strawberries and powdered sugar, or smeared with chocolate and creamy Nutella. And now, years later, my favorite waffle companion is bacon or a Southern-fried chicken wing.
So I was excited to hear about Jáce Gáce, a new coffee shop/bar/artist space specializing in waffles for breakfast, lunch and dinner (I counted the minutes until their 4 pm waffle happy hour). Jáce isn't the first or the only place in P-town to rock the waffle theme—North Lombard's Flavour Spot cart serves a mean marshmallowy s'more sandwich—but it's the only waffle joint serving neighborhood brews, like Clinton Street, on tap. Plus, the evening I dropped by, I felt welcomed by the ample sidewalk seating and eager staff (five of them, one of me).
Indoors, however, the white walls were bare (they have a new exhibit once a month, but are artless half the time). The key exception was a chalkboard menu listing the daily selection of eight to 10 waffles ($5-$8); selections fluctuate based on seasonal fruit. The waffle artists are also happy to throw together any ingredients they have on hand (I was offered Brie and walnuts to accompany my $2 glass of house cab).
Jáce's tasty, sweet-topped waffles (piña colada, granola 'n' yogurt) are made in the traditional, yeasty Belgian style, while the savory selections (huevos rancheros, asparagus and curry) are made with cornmeal (a vegan waffle is also available). Sadly, the doughy consistency of the cornmeal product leaves heartier waffle concoctions either soggy with sauce or mushy with cheddar. A thinner, crispier waffle might work better.
As I sat nodding along to Jáce's impressive song selection—the Roots, Sharon Jones, Springsteen—while trying to sop up what little maple syrup was drizzled on my room-temperature Brie square, I realized I really, really wanted to like Jáce. It offers all my favorite things—a patio, cheap drinks, waffles, cheese, waffles with cheese—but as I ate, the angrier I grew at nice-enough owner Giles Neale.
A sculptor himself, Neale may believe that art is his cafe's focus, but staring at the naked walls, I wasn't buying it just yet. And if you're going to specialize in one thing, like waffles, they had better be amazing. Even IHOP offers four flavors of syrup, for chrissakes! For now, Jáce's just left me craving Popeyes Chicken and nostalgic for Nutella.