Let me begin by confessing that I do not have a sweet tooth. I only eat candy and sweet things in a state of madness. It always happens like this: I wake up and suddenly and inexplicably I need to stuff my face with sweets, cakes, and ice cream. Though this craving rarely happens, it's powerful enough to leave a deep and lasting impression on me. One occurred at the Gaborone Sun Hotel in Botswana in 1987, another in San Francisco's Mission District in 1995, and another in Tribeca, NYC, in 2006. As you can see, I'm due for another bout of sweets madness somewhere around the middle of this decade.

On the day I visited one of my favorite cafes in town, Columbia City's Empire Espresso, to sample some of their much-talked-about waffles, I was completely sane, and so wanted to eat something meaty or fatty or bitter or sour. During the weekday, Empire Espresso offers seven types of waffles, and during the weekend, they only offer one type—with strawberries, syrup, and butter. Only one of the waffles on the menu is not built around sweet things—it comes with bits of ham, chopped scallions, and big drops of crème fraîche. I ordered the meaty waffle and one with lime powdered sugar. The result? The unsweet waffle was strangely satisfying. It had that springy and soft doughiness that triggers the expectation for something sweet and syrupy, but instead the senses are surprised by lightly salted ham, bitter scallions, and sour crème fraîche. This experience is lovely. As for the sugary waffle, even I, a man without a single sweet tooth, found pleasure in its fine texture and directness.

The owners of Empire Espresso, Tino Ganacias and Ian Peters, told me the secret of their superb waffles: They trick them into behaving like crepes. recommended