Kemah's Boardwalk That Tilman Built keeps all the tourists squarely confined within its small footprint, leaving the rest of Seabrook, Dickinson, San Leon, and Clear Lake fairly tourist-free. This is important, because if Seabrook Waffle Company were located just a few hundred yards south on Highway 146, you can guarantee that you wouldn't be able to get a waffle or a seat.
Seabrook Waffle Company
1402 Fifth Street
Seabrook Waffle Company is located on a pleasant spread of grass under ample-limbed oak trees a block south of Seabrook's famous Tookie's, the hamburger joint nearly destroyed by Hurricane Ike and eventually reopened in August 2011.
I mention Tookie's because it's one of the handful of restaurants this far south that Houston residents will routinely drive to visit, along with Gilhooley's in San Leon and Stomps in Bacliff. Seabrook Waffle Company needs to be added to that "destination dining" list posthaste, and this is why: Liège waffles. Although they're by far the most popular waffle variety in Belgium, Liège waffles can be nearly impossible to find in Houston.
Unlike regular Belgian waffles, Liège waffles begin with a so-called "brioche" batter that's thick and sticky—denser, even, than cake batter. Inside the batter are one of the secret Liège ingredients: large, opaque spheres of pearl sugar. The combination of the pearl sugar and the thick, sweet batter causes the exterior of a Liège waffle to immediately caramelize when it hits the waffle iron. That burnt sugar outside shatters when you cut into it, revealing a cake-like interior that's got a chewy, yeasty tug and more of that incredibly rich, dense sweetness.
"It's so sweet, you don't need toppings," owner David Schuren told me as I ordered a Liège waffle on a recent sleepy Saturday afternoon. "But people around here pile them on anyway," he laughed. Schuren owns the Seabrook Waffle Company along with wife Debbie and their partners: two more husband-and-wife teams, Bo and Sarah Bilnoski and Ralph and Hope Gonsoulin. It was a trip to Belgium taken by the Gonsoulins that inspired the sextet to create the Waffle Company, and it's been thriving since it first opened its doors last May.
Certainly much of the attraction at Seabrook Waffle Company are the waffles themselves (which I, in keeping with Seabrook tradition, topped with Nutella, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate sprinkles for maximum diabetic shock effect), but there's a lot to be said for the space itself. Eating a waffle outdoors is a grand tradition—from Belgium to New York City—where the treat is purchased from street vendors and enjoyed al fresco. Seabrook Waffle Company pays homage to that practice with a front patio dotted with tables, chairs, and colorful umbrellas. Every seat was full when I visited.
Inside, you'll see that aside from dessert waffles, Seabrook Waffle Company has branched out into more savory offerings, too. Alongside deli standards like a chicken sandwich, you'll also find chicken and waffles: a Liège waffle topped with fried chicken, bacon, and Swiss cheese, with jalapeño-strawberry preserves on the side. There's also an Eggs Benedict waffle and the cafe's newest creation, a Monte Cristo waffle. For the summer temperatures, there's even cold-brewed iced coffee and Vietnamese-style iced coffee with condensed milk that is almost the equal of the Liège waffles in terms of sweetness.
Since I'd just spent the afternoon gorging myself on Oysters Gilhooley and chicken livers in San Leon, I had to regretfully pass on the full-on dinner waffles but vowed to return. That vow grew stronger with my first bite of the Liège waffle, all slathered with warm hazelnut spread, its dimpled squares pooled with slowly melting vanilla ice cream.
"The secret is in the sugar," Schuren had told me when I ordered, shaking a spare canister of the pearls at me with a twinkle in his eye. In the sugar, and in the cool breezes blowing off Clear Lake that make eating a hot, sugary waffle in the summer somehow incredibly appealing.