There are many places in Vancouver to grab a delicious donut, a cone of delectable ice cream, a box of airy macarons, a buttery croissant—but really, there is only one spot at which to find a classic, superior Belgian waffle.
These are not waffles piled high with mountains of whipped cream and cookie crumbs, no; these are traditional, the kind found in Liege and Brussels, the kind actually eaten by Belgians. That is because these waffles, found at Patisserie Lebeau, are made by a Belgian.
“Many places basically use the waffle as a plate to pile stuff on top of. We don’t do that,” says pastry chef Olivier Lebeau, who runs the modest Kitsilano cafe with his wife, Penny. “I won’t say I’m a traditionalist, but the traditional items are part of our heritage and represent our culture. You have to use the basic items to continue the traditions, and then you can create around them. What we’ve done in terms of style is add flavours that Canadians recognize in their pastries and incorporate them in the waffles.” That means a mix of classic waffles (perhaps drizzled with chocolate) and inventive twists (try the lemon and white chocolate Liege); according to Lebeau, his is the only Belgian patisserie in North America that makes all the types of Belgian waffle completely in-house. There are also savoury Brussels waffles, including ham and cheese, plus options filled with various fruits and custard—as well as sandwiches on fresh baguettes, quiches, and rolls. All ingredients are natural and of the finest quality, with no preservatives; Lebeau imports beet sugar from Belgium, and says the biggest challenge is handling the varying consistencies of flours that are found in Canada.
Lebeau attended the Boulanger Patissier program in his native Belgium, and went on to work for the famous Patisserie Fransoo; after spending some time in San Francisco he settled in Vancouver in 1994, and opened the patisserie in ’95. “At the time it was hard because people would say the food was too pretty to eat—they would want something more basic,” Lebeau recalls. “We went through the first six months and then the business just boomed. It took a while for people to discover us, and once they did, we were really crazy-busy.” Instead of focusing on marketing and building a massive social media following, Lebeau relies on the excellence of his product to carry the shop through. It’s a little Vancouver secret tucked away on West 2nd, an unpretentious space with a hard-working team that lets the waffles advertise themselves. No gimmicks, just goodness.
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