Arlind Cosaj, the owner of New Rochelle’s new Waffle Café, may be just 21 years old with no prior restaurant experience (except delivering pizza one summer as a teen), but his vision, coupled with high standards and drive, have resulted in an inviting eatery with food I keep thinking about. “I always loved waffles, pancakes, and French toast,” says the Bronx native, who’s learned a lot since signing the lease for the 14-seat café.
The humble Old Fashion waffles need a better name. Only mildly sweet (they don’t need the pure maple syrup that accompanies them), they almost compelled me to forget my need to sample a variety of dishes.
Among the more lavish menu items, the standout is the Chocolate Lover waffle, which has both cocoa powder and chocolate chips in the batter, and is served with dollops of whipped cream, crumbled chocolate candies, and a delicate drizzle of chocolate sauce. The kitchen somehow manages to execute such a sugar-laden confection with skillful restraint, preventing it from feeling like your next cavity.
Slightly less restrained is the Reese’s Puffs French Toast, a peanut butter lover’s confection. Soaked in a cinnamon-maple-syrup batter, the dipped bread is coated in crushed Reese’s Puffs before griddling, then finished with peanut-butter drizzle, Reese’s Pieces, and more Reese’s Puffs.
Sandwiches, like the vodka parm (crispy chicken cutlet, vodka sauce, and mozzarella), are served on five-cheese waffle bread, while chicken and waffles can be served traditionally or with twists like red velvet or funfetti waffles.
Drinks get special attention, too. Cosaj drives to Binghamton to procure freshly roasted coffee. The refrigerator bears rows of bottled drinks, including pomegranate and clementine Italian sodas.
The décor is highly Instagrammable. One wall is covered in colorful hearts, while another is adorned with faux pink roses. The ceiling is papered with faux greenery, and a UK-style telephone booth spilling with flowers just begs for a spot on social media. Cosaj explains, “I wanted people to come in and feel happy.”
A month after opening, plans are already in the works to add more wraps, more sandwiches, and 50% more waffle options. Cosaj also intends to introduce gluten-free and vegan waffles, as well as ice cream, desserts, and flavored syrups. Online ordering is forthcoming, with free delivery to be done by café staff, rather than a third-party delivery service.
An alumnus of Salesian High School in New Rochelle, Cosaj intends to team up with his alma mater on Midnight Runs, a tradition he remembers from his student days, when students and faculty drive to Manhattan to distribute meals to the homeless. Additional outdoor seating (yet another project in the works) is also planned for warmer weather.
618 North Ave