The best waffles commercially available, I am prepared to state, come from Brown Sugar Kitchen, a small, fragrant breakfast diner on Mandela Parkway in West Oakland. The waffles, Tanya Holland’s cornmeal-enhanced riff on Marion Cunningham’s famous yeasted waffles, are crisp, light and so violently leavened that they threaten to leap from the waffle iron in which they are cooked. If you drive up from Los Angeles about 6 a.m., you can be at Brown Sugar Kitchen by noon. The hour you spend in line on a weekend morning will be the longest hour of your life.
Holland includes a splendid recipe for these waffles in her book “Brown Sugar Kitchen,” and it works as well in my battered old waffle iron as it does at the restaurant. You mix the batter the night before, chill it in your refrigerator while you sleep, and stir in a bit of baking soda just before you pour it into your hot iron. (Remember to grease the iron well, or your first waffle will tear into delicious waffly shards when you attempt to lever it out onto a plate.) At the restaurant, Holland serves it with a sticky syrup made from boiled-down cider, but I always end up using Grade B maple syrup instead, because I am lazy and I am a barbarian. They are the best waffles you will ever taste.
I still wouldn’t rule out an early morning drive to Oakland, though. Holland tends to pair the waffles with insanely delicious herbed fried chicken, and you also get a shot at her shrimp ’n’ grits.