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Waffles, INCaffeinated far beyond simple breakfast

| Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 9:59 p.m.
The dinning room at Waffles INCaffeinated on the South Side January 11, 2013. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The humble waffle is no longer just a truck-stop wallflower. At Waffles, INCaffeinated, it serves as the primary palette for the culinary creations of executive chef Tahj Merriman.

The first Waffles, INCaffeinated opened in 2010 in New Brighton. Merriman partnered with his cousin, Cassandra Cuddy, and her husband, Josh. Using his grandmother's recipe for homemade sourdough waffles, Merriman concocts waffle-centric desserts, sandwiches and spicy ethnic dishes.

The hip and homey coexist surprisingly well at the South Side location, whose pea-green walls, ebony tables and dark wood-grain floor harmonize to create a soothing ambience that suggests a mossy forest glade.

The brunch-style menu includes the Megaberry ($8.25), which features a waffle stuffed with blueberries, raspberries and topped with more berries and vanilla-bean syrup, whipped cream and a berry-reduction sauce. They also serve “OMY-Lettes”, including the Mushroom Chevre ($8.95) which features goat cheese and wild mushrooms. If you're in the mood for crepes, try the Florentine Crepe ($8.25), with its combination of spinach, chicken, mushrooms and bechamel, a creamy, French-style white sauce. The sauce is used sparingly, and there's a pleasing hint of lemon.

The Southern Waffle ($7.95) wears a fried egg as a hat and is filled with chorizo sausage, jalapenos and cheddar cheese. It's topped with fresh pico de gallo, a Mexican relish.

Breakfast Magic features a waffle with bacon, cheddar cheese and green onions. It's topped with a fried egg and garnished with green onions and sour cream on the side. For toppings, there's traditional maple syrup or a tasty, bourbon-infused variety. The waffle had the fresh, toothsome texture of a potato pancake.

They also serve sandwiches, including the Waffles Gyro ($8.65). Sides include sweet potato waffle fries ($4). Merriman even makes a waffle version of naan, the flat, leavened bread from northwest India. It's served with the soup of the day ($4).

Merriman and Josh Cuddy are both in the Army Reserves and will deploy to Afghanistan next month, Cassandra Cuddy says. They hope to open a third Waffles, INCaffeinated after they return.

Waffles, INCaffeinated, 2517 East Carson St, South Side. Hours: 6 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Details: 412-301-1763

William Loeffler is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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