When Frank Daluisio looks at a waffle, he sees more than a classic breakfast staple.
He sees a blank canvas.
Chef at Ballston Spa’s waffle-centric Iron Roost since the eatery opened in 2012, his palette has grown to include everything from garlic-herb mayo to avocado-cocoa mousse. Menu offerings range from sweet breakfast confections to hearty deli sandwiches, all with a waffle as the key structural element.
“I do what I call, ’How could I waffle-ize that?’” he explained. “How can I take something I’ve had [to eat] and how can I waffle-ize that?”
Trained in the French tradition, Daluisio has a background in fine dining. He came to the Iron Roost following stints as executive chef at Sperry’s Restaurant in Saratoga Springs and as sous chef at Ballston Spa’s 51 Front Wine Bar and Bistro, which has since closed.
“I’d done high-end dinners, banquets, catering, pretty much anything except for waffles,” he said.
When Daluisio heard about Iron Roost owner Linnaea DiNallo’s vision for a restaurant with a waffle-focused menu, he said he was skeptical, but intrigued. His curiosity won out and he decided to give it a shot.
“We brought it together and took the waffle and made it something fun,” he said.
One of his first challenges was to come up with a savory waffle batter well suited for entrees that don’t involve sugary toppings. He created a yeast-based concoction flavored with garlic and black pepper.
“It’s essentially bread made in a waffle iron,” he explained.
That waffle-bread serves as the base for grilled chicken, grilled cheese, egg sandwiches and more. Sweet dishes, like apple crisp and Bananas Foster, are made with buttermilk waffles.
In the kitchen, six waffle irons sizzle nonstop, churning out more than 200 waffles on a typical weekend day, Daluisio estimated. He said he tries to make a waffle to please every palate and to meet every dietary need. Gluten-free and vegan varieties are available.
Daluisio begins his workday around 5 a.m., making sauces and sauteing pan after pan of home fries in his own seasoning blend.
“They’ve got a little crisp to them; they’ve got a lot of flavor to them,” he said.
He starts at square one with all of his creations -- grinding breakfast sausage and making brioche for French toast that’s baked -- where else -- in a waffle iron. Ingredients are locally sourced whenever possible.
“I’m always trying to improve upon what I’ve already improved upon,” Daluisio said. “It’s always challenging and I’ve got a great group of folks in the back of the house with me that share my passion for good food.”
Ranking high among most-ordered menu items is the Lemon Berry, a waffle-based concoction infused with lemon mascarpone and topped with homemade lemon curd, fresh strawberries, and whipped cream. On the savory side, the Southwest Fiesta is a crowd pleaser. The dish is anchored with a waffle wedge that’s topped with scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, sour cream, tomato, avocado and scallions. Daluisio’s homemade hot sauce lends it all a little zing.
The doors to the Roost open at 7 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Customers order at the counter and then receive full service once settled in the 45-seat dining area. There’s typically a line of hungry patrons waiting to order, a queue that sometimes can take up to two hours to get through.
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Despite that, patrons keep coming back for more. Daluisio attributes that to the restaurant’s consistent quality in both food and service.
“It doesn’t matter, over-easy eggs or filet mignon, fine dining. We do it all with great integrity and our customers see that,” he said.
Reach freelance writer Kelly de la Rocha at [email protected].