A waffle is a map of Midtown

Waffles are thought to date back to the 13th century, and to have originated in Europe, but only since last weekend have they been dispensed from a rooster-red 1970 single cab Volkswagen “drop gate” mobile vending unit in Midtown Sacramento. That’s where the waffle guy, who goes only by Marc, set up his “Volkswaffle” maker, to get in on the Second Saturday action.

“It’s dough instead of batter,” he was telling an excited customer at a few minutes before 9, revealing an array of yeasty globules and nimbly shoveling one into the waffle iron. It sizzled, sending a vanilla essence wafting along the temperate L Street breeze. He also firmly explained that Belgians don’t eat waffles for breakfast.

“Normally they come plain,” he told the customer, “but for the Americans, we can put on some toppings.” Graciously, he tried to conceal his contempt. In the dark and from far enough away, it would be easy enough to misread the writing on his truck as “Volkswaffe,” which might give the wrong impression. The waffle guy, formerly a corporate sales and marketing guy, is neither a human weapon nor a waffle Nazi, but he is proud of his heritage.

“Batter’s pretty tasteless,” he said. “That’s why people put all the syrup and sugar and crap on top of it. This is a more an authentic waffle. You need to be from Belgium in order to bake these products. You have to love waffles. Some of these ingredients you can’t even get in this country.”

The details of how Marc and his wife acquired the recipe during a life-altering 1,700-mile hike across Western Europe are available at their Web site, which takes waffles seriously enough to include a painterly depiction of a waffle maker by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

It goes to show, as humanity has known for many generations, that a city’s nightlife is only as good as its street food. And with all due respect to the hot dog guy at 20th and K streets, things have been looking a little grim for Second Saturdays since the mysterious departure of the Roots-N-Kulchah vegan Caribbean food truck, formerly of the Golden Bear parking lot.

So this exotic new option might not be as tough a sell as the waffle guy supposes. For one thing, his waffles are delicious—dense and flavorful and just sweet enough, even to an American palate, all by themselves. For another, given such precedents as the True Love Coffeehouse’s wee-hours waffle bakes and the Sacramento Audio Waffle, it’s obvious that ours is a city on which the spiritual epiphanies of self-caramelizing snacks are not lost.

Most importantly, perhaps, the waffle guy has pimped the right kind of ride. “I was very surprised that the Californians were loving old Volkswagens,” he said. “It seems that every Californian has had one or known someone who had one.”