Growing up, waffles at her grandma’s were both a special treat and tradition.
“Whenever we would go to her house for breakfast or brunch, she would make her waffles,” Alyssa Agee recalled. “And they were so perfect: crisp on the outside, and light and fluffy on the inside.”
Her grandmother, Ellen Neel – GeGe to her great-grandkids – served them simply, with “lots of butter and syrup.” Real maple syrup. She was and still is, Agee said, “a very classic and classy lady.”
Her grandmother’s recipe, gluten-free before there was as much awareness around gluten-free eating as there is today, is the main inspiration behind People’s Waffle, the small downtown Spokane waffle shop Agee opened in spring 2021 with her husband, Bryan, and their longtime friend and business partner, Aaron Hein.
With just 11 tables inside – four more on the sidewalk in summer – “there’s almost always a wait,” Agee said.
Waffle batter is made in small batches featuring a gluten-free flour blend from Bob’s Red Mill – not exactly how grandma, using her own special mix of brown and white rice and other flours, does it.
But the trick is the same. The secret to light and fluffy gluten-free waffles with a crisp exterior is separating the eggs and beating the whites until they are whipped up like a meringue.
Neel passed down her recipe to her granddaughter when she moved out and married. Four years ago, when Neel moved to Spokane – and in with Agee, her husband, and their three children – the three generations started making her waffles together.
Agee, also missing the walk-up waffle window she frequented when she lived in Portland, “wanted to bring them to the people, all people,” not only people who don’t find wheat flour difficult to digest.
“Waffles,” Agee said, “for all.”
People’s Waffle opened in April 2021. Wednesday is National Waffle Day.
To celebrate, here are the five top-selling waffles at People’s Waffle, where, Agee said, offerings change quarterly and her grandmother has “graciously tried just about everything on the menu.”
No. 1 – The Benny, a take on a traditional eggs Benedict, features perfectly poached eggs, Canadian bacon, and a dash of cayenne and paprika. Like all waffle dishes at People’s Waffle, it features two waffles. And it’s “slathered in Hollandaise sauce,” Agee said.
No. 2 – “A close second is the Lemon Blueberry,” Agee said. This one features vanilla crème anglaise, lemon curd and fresh blueberries topped with a candied lemon round.
No. 3 – The seasonal Blackberry Jewel is giving “Lemon Blueberry a run for her money,” Agee said. “Sometimes it’s in third place. Sometimes it’s in second. That may just be because it’s new.” This dish includes cheese cake crème anglaise, fresh blackberries, house-made blackberry jam, vanilla whipped cream and graham cracker crumbles. “Everything is made from scratch in-house,” Agee said. “We don’t do anything pre-made. There’s no pre-made jams, no pre-made whipped cream.”
No. 4 – The classic Breakfast Waffle features an egg, house-made sausage and real, grade-A maple syrup. “That one is a real crowd-pleaser,” Agee said. “It usually ranks up there pretty high, depending on the week.” But the Bacon Apple Cheddar Wafflewich sometimes knocks it down a notch. (It’s also fun to say.) Bacon, sharp cheese, spiced apples and maple aioli, served on the side for dipping, keep this one in the top five.
No. 5 – Classic Strawberries N’ Cream usually comes in fifth. House-made strawberry-rhubarb preserve, fresh strawberries and vanilla whipped cream are topped with a frozen chocolate lattice.
The menu at People’s Waffle is divided between sweet and savory. Sides include eggs, avocado, bacon, breakfast sausage, fruit salad and rosemary roasted potatoes.
Emma Rue’s next door shares the same owners and indoor doorway. Order your brunch cocktail (Corpse Reviver No. 2, Framboise 75, mimosa, bloody mary, espresso martini) or specialty coffee drink (salted caramel latte, vanilla lavender latte) and enjoy it at People’s Waffle with your breakfast or brunch.
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