Some culinary trends come with promises concocted in the vague argot of marketing executives and brand managers. But a few rare ideas spring from something universal. They're the restaurants and recipes that tap into unknown pleasures, manifestations of all our unconscious cravings.
Such is the case at Bruxie, a weeks-old stand in Old Towne Orange whose s'mores-stuffed and prosciutto-packed Belgian waffle sandwiches are fulfilling the fantasies of every syrup-soaked childhood and late-night binge.
Bruxie is a sweetly nostalgic place. Rather than load up a Twitter-equipped food truck, the waffle shop sought out history among downtown Orange's innocent Americana. It found just that in the former home of Dairy Treet, an aging burger and shake shack that had been in operation for more than 60 years. Still, Bruxie is modern, self-aware and already crawling with students from nearby Chapman University. The novelty of it all is so precisely calibrated to the surroundings that some customers have been wondering aloud whether Bruxie is part of a fledgling franchise.
But the restaurant is as local as it gets. Bruxie is the work of partners Dean Simon, Philippe Caupain and Kelly Mullarney, all restaurant veterans. Simon has lived in Orange for two decades, and the three have known each other just as long. Struck by the remarkable waffles on a trip through Belgium, Simon and Caupain launched a waffle business five years ago that makes and sells mixes to high-end hotels and cruise lines. After receiving their 65th fan letter, the pair knew their waffles deserved a wider audience.
These aren't American-style waffles, those doughy, sugary things formed from practically the same batter as pancakes. Bruxie's waffles follow a traditional Brussels-style formula honed by Caupain. They're leavened not by baking powder but by yeast. The result is crisp yet delicate, a honeycomb of airy pockets that strikes just the right balance: pliable enough to be folded over a dozen sweet and savory fillings, sturdy enough to support a serious sandwich.
No menu marriage was more pre-ordained than the fried chicken waffle sandwich. A tender, buttermilk-soaked breast is wedged between the waffles, touched with a bit of chile-honey and cut with cole slaw. It's a uniquely well-balanced sandwich — all it needs are a few extra dabs of hot sauce.
The burger is even better: juicy Angus beef crowned with cheddar, half-sour pickles, lettuce and tomato. It's not a showcase of extravagant dry-aged prime or condiments chosen with curatorial deliberation, nor should it be. Bruxie's burger is simply a fine example of a reengineered classic, one joined with a wink and a nudge by an order of waffle fries.
There's no resisting Bruxie's sweet side. The s'mores waffle is a taste of youth: house-made chocolate ganache and marshmallow cream dusted with toasted graham cracker crumbs. It's as messy as you remember, the chocolate and marshmallow seeping from the sandwich in a gooey confluence of flavors. More elegant is the waffle crowded with fresh berries and streaked with wonderfully tart lemon cream.
Simon, Caupain and Mullarney labored over Bruxie's details. In an ode to the old Dairy Treet, they spent months testing frozen custard recipes before settling on one from Wisconsin. And it's just right: supremely creamy custard so thick it can withstand gravity. They also tapped a local factory to produce a custom line of cane-sugar sodas. Along with that custard, they make great old-fashioned floats.
There are morning-oriented sandwiches of smoked salmon, dill cream cheese, cucumbers and chives as well as those smeared with Nutella, bananas and sweet cream. Eventually, Simon says, Bruxie will see seasonal and limited-run recipes. But there will always be comfort in the stand's simplest offerings: dense, free-form Liège waffles studded with caramelized nubs of pearl sugar and weightless Brussels waffles slicked with maple syrup.
LOCATION: 292 N. Glassell St., Orange, (888) 927-8943, http://www.bruxie.com.
PRICE: Savory waffles, $4.95 to $7.50; sweet waffles, $4.50 to $5.95; sodas, shakes, floats and frozen custard, $1.95 to $4.95.
DETAILS: Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Lot and street parking. Credit cards accepted.