Saturday, July 03, 2010

Restaurant Review: Insomnia Waffles

When it's late at night..after midnight..and you can't sleep for whatever reason - whether you're worried sick about some loss you fear is impending or else annoyed by some noisy person downstairs - well, you might want to go over to Insomnia Waffles to while the time away till dawn. It's past one am and I can't sleep so here I am at Insomnia. I've set up my laptop on the counter here so I can transmit my wi-fi review to you live from the waffle shop. So with my waffle wi-fi working, I send you my thoughts about Insomnia Waffles, my favorite waffle shop in town. First off, let me say that Insomnia Waffles is the non-scary version of an all-nite waffle place. I really dig and appreciate and admire any place that is the non-scary version of something that people usually think of as scary and to-be-avoided. So for somebody to take the waffle shop concept and transmute it into a diner-friendly place is almost miraculous to my eye.

Insomnia is also great because it doesn't try to help you sleep. I think that a restaurant that tried to put you to sleep wouldn't actually be worth much. If you walked in here and they were playing lullabies over the sound system and serving you glasses of warm milk--well, that might put you to sleep but what would you do then? Spend the night in a waffle shop? I think not.

So Insomnia Waffles does the best thing, the best response to insomnia, it just doesn't acknowledge it or try to treat it. Insomnia Waffles tells you--ok, you can't sleep, let's just make the best of it. So they do serve coffee. They don't serve warm milk. And, of course, gloriously, they do serve waffles.

In keeping with the non-scary mode, this is a waffle place that actually has more the ambiance of a coffee shop, complete with mood lighting and great background music--right now they're playing Manhattan Transfer's "Spies in the Night." It's the cool phone-call part right now--"The winds are calm in the channel" and so forth. So while this driving tune plays, I'm sitting here looking over the non-laminated menu.

Laminated menu's. Don't they kind of scare you? Because really they're made for easy clean-up, which is always the sign of some creepy institutional ware. I mean, why on earth would you need to clean a menu with a sponge? It's too disgusting to think about.

But Insomnia Waffles, of course, has no laminated menu's. (I've already noted elsewhere that I realize there is no apostrophe in menus but I think it looks goofy without it so I use it anyway. Critic's prerogative.) The menu's are on a nicely browned parchment with cool early-70's inspirational-pamphlet calligraphy and ink-brush drawings of egrets. That's the kind of menu I like. So you can see it's just one more way that Insomnia Waffles departs from the scary waffle shop concept.

Now there are many choices with a waffle. You can have a round waffle. A square waffle. A triangular waffle. I'm particularly fond of the rhomboid waffle. And once you've chosen the shape, next on the decision agenda is how large the indentions or "wafflings" should be. Now, I'm not a fan of those waffles with only one or two gigantic indentations. I like the standard waffle grid or checkerboard pattern, though I know some disagree.

OK. My server has just appeared (I mean that literally--one minute they're not there and then they suddenly materialize). I will stop typing for a moment then report back.

OK. I just ordered the Powerhouse Waffle. This is one of those menu items that gains you a special engraving on a plaque if you eat it. Normally I don't go in for such sensationalistic food stunts, but in this case--well, it's a waffle! What do you expect me to do?!

Of course I'm also having the coffee. Coffee and waffles. That's what Jarmusch should have called that movie. It would have been an infinitely better film had it been about coffee and waffles rather than coffee and cigarettes. I mean, really. And the checkerboard table would have gone so much better with checkerboard waffles than with cylindrical cigarettes. I mean, it isn't that hard of a decision, people! And I'm a food critic not some famous motion-picture director!

Let me say something about syrup. Now I have been accused by various persons of drenching my waffles in syrup. Well, as a diner, I fully indulge my instincts, and I have a strong instinct for hot, sweet syrup, and I indulge that to the fullest! I also put a couple butter pats on each waffle before I ladle the hot honey-like syrup on. I like butter pats that have little images carved onto them (I don't know if carved is the right word exactly--I'm a food critic, not some self-conscious pedant! Who cares!). I like famous faces on my butter pats. Especially cartoon characters from the 1930s. And that's exactly what Insomnia Waffles does--they have people (characters) like Mutt and Jeff molded into their butter discs. Isn't that phenomenal? You can watch Mutt's face interestingly morph under the cascade of ladled hot syrup. Delish!

The coffee at Insomnia Waffles is incredible. It isn't typical waffle coffee. It's really great cafe coffee. So again it's the non-scary version of a waffle shop and that's why I keep coming back here! Again and again. Especially when I can't sleep (which is probably the point). Like tonight.

The service is serviceable. Nobody has ever disappointed me here. And what's especially appreciated is--the waitrons don't try to make you go to sleep! Wouldn't it be annoying if your server kept saying, "You look exhausted. Time to hit the hay!" I mean, I would not want to be served by that person.

Overall, then, Insomnia Waffles is the perfect spot to dine at when sleep is elusive. You can use the wi-fi and enjoy the waff-fi, as you sip the rich roast. The roast has an incredible gravy! The coffee is good too.

And so, although I wish I could sleep, although I wish I didn't worry so much which keeps me from sleeping and sends me off to Insomnia Waffles in the middle of the night--I still enthusastically--in a sleepy nocturnal way--award Insomnia Waffles Five Winks!

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