Sacramento, CA 95816
Several horror posters populate Frankenwaffle, the divey, hole-in-the-wall (in this case, black painted walls) that’s small and dark enough to feel like a coffin. Tiny animal skeletons decorate the few tables. A big screen TV plays the original Pet Semetary while three middle-aged men sit at the bar, snacking on plates of whipped cream-covered waffles and discussing their “better halves” as they drink craft beers and watch young Gage get run over by a semi.
OK, I get it: Frankenwaffle = franks + waffles with a horror twist. Except, aside from the Halloween décor, the theme doesn’t follow through. The menu has a simple list of locally-sourced sausages and another list of pretty conventional waffles. There are no dastardly monster waffle/frank creations and none of the beers have scary horror names.
It’s like owner Justin Lehr came up with the name and stopped there. In fact, I overheard him explain to the guys at the bar that he just happens to really like waffles and sausages. He also likes the horror genre, spinning vinyl and beer—nothing more to it.
I try the Chicago Style Polish ($7), which is juicy and rich, just the way one hopes, and the Habanero and Mango ($7), which sets my mouth aflame until a nice sweet kick puts out the fire. The sausage menu rotates monthly, and they come on a bun with chips (sub out for a waffle for a bit more). The buns are superfluous. I recommend just ordering the sausages naked and then experimenting with the myriad of mustards available.
The only truly unique sausage item is the Waffle Dog Duo ($6), two dogs on a stick, encased in a waffle and served with maple syrup. Lehr also brought out some “hot honey,” which is incredibly sweet but has a slow, intense jalapeño heat. The waffle casing’s slight sweetness creates a curious mix of sweet and sour, which is only better drenched in honey or syrup.
Diving into the waffle menu, I try the Fantasy Island ($8), which offers a thin drizzle of Nutella over a heap of pineapples, bananas and coconut syrup. The fruit’s fresh and the decadence of the Nutella doesn’t overpower the waffle. It feels like breakfast and not a secret dessert. The same goes for the Bubba Ho Tep ($8), a waffle slathered in peanut butter and bananas and served with copious syrup.
There are a few savory waffles, including the Bacon Cheddar ($7). Lehr drops cheddar cheese and large strips of smokey bacon into the batter, producing a tasty snack that strikes me as a better pairing to his extensive craft brewery collection than the Bubba Ho Tep. I didn’t get to try the Cornmeal Chili Waffle ($9, available on Thursdays), as it was sold out, but a cornmeal waffle smothered in tri-tip chili sounds delicious.
Nothing about the food is remarkable or bad; each component accomplishes what it intends. Lehr’s not breaking culinary ground, although it’s a fun place to hang out, for sure.
But I still find myself searching for the connecting theme. Waffles? Sausages? Horror movies? Vinyl records? Craft beer? How do they all work together? Finally, it hits me. Lehr has taken all his disparate passions and patchworked them together into a new creation. Frankenwaffle is Lehr’s monster, and it’s alive!