Len Caric and Jim Rudolph hope their new restaurant will be a smashing success.
The business partners are bringing Smashed Waffles to 3501 Forbes Ave. in Oakland with plans to franchise the concept throughout Pittsburgh. Sherree Goldstein, owner of Square Café in East Liberty, will serve as an operating partner.
The North Carolina-based brand specializes in waffles that start as dough balls made with Belgian pearl sugar that are smashed in a cast iron waffle press. Think of it as a sweet, early morning alternative to a smash burger.
The pastries are baked until they’re golden brown, creating a caramelized outer shell with a fluffy inside. Customers can choose from a variety of sweet and savory toppings, from vanilla icing and Fruity Pebbles to pepperoni, mozzarella and marinara sauce.
You can also opt for a Smashedwich, such as the Happy-Go-Clucky — chicken, bacon and cheddar between two waffles — or go the dessert route and order an Ice Cream Waco. The taco-shaped waffles are filled with vanilla soft serve ice cream and a variety of sugary extras.
Smashed Waffles will start out in September as a “ghost kitchen,” a delivery-only business model based in the East End. The Oakland store will open in January of 2022 for on-site dining.
“We’ve been following the whole ghost kitchen concept for a while,” Caric says. “It’s a good way to start this business and get the product out earlier than the restaurant.”
Caric says the neighborhood is the perfect location for Smashed Waffles thanks to the area’s high concentration of universities and hospitals. From 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., patrons will be able to stop in and grab a single waffle (about the size of a donut), a half-dozen or a dozen along with a coffee made with beans from a local roaster. Despite the name, Smashed Waffles will not serve booze.
Rudolph is a franchise industry veteran who brought the first Wendy’s fast food operation to Pittsburgh in the 1970s, as well as Rita’s Italian Ice.
During a business trip to Greenville, North Carolina, Rudolph visited the original eatery and fell in love with the concept. Caric thinks Pittsburghers will be game to get “smashed,” too.
“It’s something different that tastes fantastic,” Caric says. “That’s what got us so excited about it.”