When I travel, I always have a loose itinerary of places I want to eat at. However, I do understand that not everyone shares my tastes or will necessarily be in the mood for a particular thing when it's available, though I'm usually pretty good at getting my way. That having been said, I always have one must-go place every time I travel, one that I insist on checking out above all others. I had just such a place in mind for this trip, and on our last morning in Salt Lake City, I would finally make it there.
If you watch food/travel television, you might recall Bruges Waffles & Frites from the SLC episode of Man v. Food. A couple of years after that episode aired, Bruges opened a second location in the Sugar House area of SLC (and how perfect is that name?), with an expanded menu. For some reason, even four years later, all anyone can talk about is the Machine Gun Sandwich from that TV show. It may well be the most interesting thing at the downtown location, but there are more options at the newer restaurant. A mobile eatery (Waffle Bus) and a third restaurant (this one in Provo) have opened, but the biggest and best selection of menu items is still in Sugar House. All of the locations have sandwiches and frites, but the downtown location seems to only have Liege Waffles (what we think of as classic "Belgian Waffles") available, while the newest location in Provo focuses almost exclusively on the Brussels style (what we think of as "waffles"). The Sugar House location has both. Guess where we went?
|Brussels waffle with fresh strawberries, creme fraiche and powdered sugar|
It was windy and a little chilly outside the morning we showed up, but unfortunately it was also crazy busy, and the only available table was outside. Each of the girls ordered a Brussels Waffle with various toppings, while I chose a savory sandwich made from the same waffles, the Lucky Luke. Just because I couldn't be happy with only a savory waffle concoction, I added a Torpedo Waffle, and also a large order of Belgian Frites and a selection of dipping sauces for the table to share. Coffee for the grownups, cocoa for the youngsters, and a couple of On-The-Go Chcolate Waffles to take for the drive home rounded out the order, which after tip was about seventy bucks. Crazy? Well yes, obviously, but worth it? Let's get into that...
|Brussels waffle with powdered sugar and Belgian chocolate syrup|
I feel it fair to warn you that none of the ladies were overjoyed with their food. It turns out that there's a reason why all the sweet waffle sandwiches are made with the Liege style and the savory ones utilize the Brussels version. The dense, fluffy, slightly sweet waffle lends itself better to balancing out rich toppings, while the lighter and crispier one compliments without overwhelming.
|Brussels waffle with powdered sugar, Belgian chocolate syrup and fresh strawberries|
And here we have three light, crispy waffles with sweet toppings served to people whose preference and primary experience has been with "Belgian waffles". Not exactly what they were prepared for, and I would have advised they go the other way if I had been thinking but, selfish bastard that I am, I was too focused on my own order. Anyway, very good waffles (albeit not the right kind for the audience), and definitely quality toppings.
|Lucky Luke sandwich|
The Sugar House branch of Bruges is the only one that makes omelettes, and therefore is the only one to make a waffle sandwich with an omelette on it. And not just that, but an omelette with roasted green and red bell peppers, caramelized onions, brie, and a choice of either a freakandel sausage or two of the merguez variety. As much as I love lamb, I opted for the former because it's a more traditionally Belgian. All the components of this were terrific (and the strawberry on the side was a nice touch), but to me the balance was just a little bit off. For something with so many amazing components, I expected a bit more strength in the flavor department. A little more cheese or one with a stronger flavor, a little sauce of some kind perhaps. Maybe I should have gotten the less traditional spicy lamb sausages, I'm sure they would have punched things up a bit. Or perhaps it's supposed to be a subtle dish? I doubt it, given the rest of their menu. Speaking of which...
|Large Belgian Frites|
French fries/frites. A classic menu item, one much beloved by Americans but surprisingly difficult to find done really well. Often greasy, limp, crunchy, made with oil too old or new...I've had a lot of disappointing fries. Bruges charges over eight dollars for a large order, but the cone you see there is bigger than it appears. Let's get a different angle on that, shall we?
|Yup, those are frites all right...|
While the question of whether the French or the Belgians developed this dish will probably never be answered, both seem to agree that the double-frying method, first at a lower temperature to cook the potato and then hotter to crisp up the outside, is the way to go. And in the hands of people as experienced as the fine people at Bruges, it results in some of the best fries I've ever had the pleasure of trying.
|Clockwise from upper left: fry sauce, greens, curry, aioli, and just plain mayo.|
Bruges has a wide selection of house-made, primarily mayonnaise-based dipping sauces for their frites. All of them were good, and of the selection we got I'd have to say the best was either the aioli or the fry sauce (because in UT, you have to get fry sauce, right?), and I was probably least fond of the curry. I regretted not getting one of the spicier options for variety's sake, but I just kind of ran down the list picking anything that sounded intriguing, and decided that five was probably more than enough.
|Torpedo Waffle with creme fraiche|
On to my dessert (okay, I shared...there was a LOT of food after all), imagine the best Belgian waffle you've ever had with sticks of Belgian chocolate pushed down into the batter before the iron is closed. Yup, it's pretty amazing, and the huge dollop of creme fraiche just put it over the top. This was probably everyone's favorite item. So, are you starting to see how this got to be such an expensive meal? I'll give you another example.
|Belgian hot chocolate|
How about a hot chocolate that costs as much as a premium coffee drink? They have them at Bruges. Is it worth it? Abso-freaking-lutely. This is, hands down, the best hot chocolate I've ever had in my life. It was a little rich for the young 'uns, so I was happy to appropriate a cup. Sadly, while walking to the car I lost my footing on what looked like packed, dusty dirt but was actually incredibly slippery mud, and went sprawling into the street. I skinned my knee, bent the nail on my big toe back, and spent the rest of the day walking with a limp, and I was STILL more upset that I lost about three bucks worth of that hot chocolate.
|On-The-Go Waffles, white and regular chocolate varieties|
Didn't actually try the chocolate dipped On-The-Go Waffles until the next day with coffee. Good, but obviously you can't beat the fresh ones.
After Bruges, we spent an absolutely amazing and wonderful morning at the Natural History Museum of Utah (something else we don't have here). Then it was back to IKEA where, and I don't believe I'm saying this after all the carbs we had for breakfast, most of us had lunch before we headed downstairs to raid the grocery department for frozen and snack foods.
|My Mountain Dew and Lingonberry drink sunrise|
After that it was back to In-N-Out again to feed the kid who had abstained from eating lunch with the rest of us at IKEA, and then a long, boring, ugly drive home. In the end, I was honestly surprised by how much I found to like in SLC. I figured the whole trip would revolve around going to the amusement park, but there was actually a lot of fun to be had, and lots of things to eat that aren't exactly easy to come by here. It's not going to replace Seattle or Portland as my favorite weekend road trip destination, but it IS closer and cheaper, so it's definitely in the running for occasional visits.
Food: Excellent, especially once you learn the ropes.
Value: Considering how unique it is, I don't feel bad about the cost. I DID go a little crazy as well...
Atmosphere: Charming. You won't quite be able to fool yourself that you're in Europe, but close.
Final Grade: A