Taste: 4.5/5 Fun, delicious, sweet and savory concoctions.
Service: 4.5/5 Everything is made to order, so be prepared for a wait.
Ambiance: 4.5/5 Casual, hip and fun. It just feels cool.
Concept: 5/5 I don’t think you’ll find this menu anywhere else.
Pricing: 3/5 Prices are a bit steep for the portion size.
Jessica Holbrook taste-tests Chicken and Waffles, Banana Bomb, Dwayne Wayne burger, El Chupacabra taco waffle, Bomb Coffee, Cherry Cultured Cream Soda, The Tarbender and Reese’s Waffle at Cultured Coffee & Waffles.
I am notoriously indecisive at restaurants.
I’ll stare at a menu much longer than necessary, plagued by FOMO (fear of missing out). What if I order something and miss out on something even better?
That’s how I ended up scrolling through Cultured Coffee & Waffle’s website, paralyzed by decisions. Everything on the menu, which runs the gamut from savory to sweet and mainstream to bizarre, sounds genuinely delicious.
Fighting the temptation to tackle this review solo (more waffles for me), I grabbed my husband, Dave, and a couple of friends. There’s a finite number of waffles you can (safely) eat in a week. I’m not trying to be a hero.
I’d grabbed coffee at the downtown Canton location (309 Cleveland Avenue NW) and loved the authentically hip vibe. I was curious to see if that translated outside of the Arts District, so we hit up the restaurant’s newer Jackson Township shop (4889 Portage Street NW).
The restaurant is tucked into a shopping plaza near The Strip. It’s not a big space—you’d have a hard time dining with a larger group. And I imagine things could get crowded during more traditional brunch times. Fortunately, we were grabbing dinner on a drizzly Tuesday evening, and the large booths are more than enough space for four adults and a wiggly toddler.
Like downtown, the Jackson restaurant is just cool. The walls are covered in black-and-white graffitiesque murals that feature plenty of breakfast foods, coffee cups and mustaches. A Connect Four game is stationed at every table. And chalkboard-style signs above the counter advertise coffee and drink offerings.
Both locations are counter service. We arrived a few hours before closing, and the single person behind the counter was great about answering questions and handling our hemming and hawing over the menu. She also was apologetic about our wait—maybe 20 minutes between ordering and getting our food—which was completely understandable given that she was flying solo.
Waffles are definitely the star of this experience, but coffee comes a close second.
Tressa and Caleb, who joined us with their nearly year-old daughter Moxie, both grabbed the absurdly caffeinated Tarbender ($6.50, one size), a salted caramel latte with four shots of espresso. I wasn’t going to be up late with a baby, so I just snagged a sip for review purposes. It was sweet without being cloying with a great boost of espresso. I’d happily order one earlier in the day.
I went for a cherry Cultured Cream Soda ($4.50, also available in grape, blue raspberry and watermelon). I’ve loved Italian sodas—essentially soda water and flavored syrup—since I was a kid, and this one was no exception.
With promises that I could sample everyone’s entrees, I finally settled on the El Chupacabra Taco Waffle ($7.95), which is stuffed with seasoned ground beef and cheese and topped with sour cream and taco sauce. The waffle in this case is much closer in texture to a biscuit or croissant than a traditional doughy waffle. It’s crispy and flaky, which holds up well to the wetter filling. I expected some of the sweetness I usually associate with waffles, but the savory, slightly spicy taco flavors were enough on their own.
I was envious of Dave’s pick of Chicken and Waffles ($10.95). It was the perfect combination of sweet, savory, salty and spicy. The sweet Belgian waffle was a perfect match for the crispy, juicy chicken tenders. It came with maple syrup and a seriously delicious hot sauce that I’d happily buy by the bottle.
The idea of a waffle burger sounded odd, but it made perfect sense in execution. The Dwayne Wayne special ($13.95)—a cheeseburger topped with sloppy Joe meat, bacon and onion rings—was substantial and satisfying. Waffles make weirdly good buns.
The Banana Bomb ($7.95)—topped with banana pudding, dried bananas, whipped cream and Nilla wafers—was another hit of nostalgia. Banana pudding was one of my favorite desserts as a kid, and it translates perfectly to a waffle-based dish.
Much of the Cultured experience reminded me of being a kid again. Maybe it’s the whimsical menu, or the idea that I could eat dessert for dinner, but there’s something youthful and fun about the restaurant that I wish more eateries would embrace.
It was that desire to recapture my youth that led to my Cultured downfall.
The downtown location is just a few blocks from About headquarters, so I wrapped up this review a quick weekday lunch.
I ordered the Bomb Coffee ($3.75), a caffeinated creation with ingredients kept under wraps by Cultured. Whatever it’s made of, the drink is spicy, warm and delicious with hints of (I think) cinnamon. I loved it.
And because there was no adult to tell me no, I ordered the Reese’s Waffle ($7.95). It comes covered by an absurd amount of peanut butter and chocolate, including huge chunks of Reese Cups, chocolate chips, chocolate icing and melted peanut butter. I also added whipped cream in an attempt to cut down on the richness.
It was sticky, overly sweet, indulgent and a terrible idea. I loved every bite of this waffle but didn’t come close to finishing it and spent the rest of my workday coming down from a sugar high.
Next time, I’m bringing backup.