NEW YORK—When craving authentic Belgian waffles, there's no need to travel all the way to Belgium. A newly opened bakery is now offering patrons a decadent slice of Belgium's trademark treat.
A combination of modern European funk décor with classical glass chandeliers dangling from the ceiling, Le Petit Belge is tucked away between two stores on East 14th Street, between Fifth Avenue and Union Square West. True to its name, the store itself is narrow with only room for a small counter for walk-in orders, but the rich and tantalizing scent of freshly made waffles is enough to turn heads for a detour into the shop.
Inside, a display of a variety of waffles, chocolates, macaroons and chocolate covered strawberries entices visitors. The bakery specializes in mostly Belgian baked goods such as croissants and waffles as well as European chocolate.
The waffles, which start at $3.50 without toppings, are Le Petit Belge's specialty and are freshly made on the spot. Crispy on the outside and soft and warm on the inside, the waffles are perfect for satisfying the sweet tooth especially when topped off with whipped cream, chocolate and a variety of different fruits.
Not sure what to get? Owner and manager Greg Galel can easily recommend the store's best and tastiest treat. Growing up surrounded by a food loving family who owned restaurants in his native Belgium, Galel is no stranger to the world of food. Galel had previously ventured uptown with another bakery but had sold it after eight months to open Le Petit Belge in a potentially more lucrative location on 14th Street. Now he oversees the day-to-day operations of the two-month-old bakery.
One of the most popular items is the whipped cream covered waffle topped off with strawberries and a dash of dark Belgian chocolate.
Keeping in tune with European tradition, every morning, Galel arrives early to roll the dough, prepare the ingredients and the freshly bakes everything. The ingredients used in Galel's cooking are far from the typical bakeries found throughout Manhattan. All the products offered are made from natural ingredients, most of which are imported from Belgium.
"We specialize in Belgian ingredients," said Galel. "Everything here has a touch of Belgium."
Le Petite Belge also offers a wide range of coffee. Like everything in the store, the coffee is a special European blend that Galel tweaked to suit American tastes.
"The coffee blended in Europe is very strong," says Galel. "We took that coffee and took out the bitterness but kept it strong and aromatic."
Also on the drinks menu is a trend that has been recently spreading across Manhattan: Bubble tea. However, the tea found in Le Petit Belge is unlike any other. Like everything offered in Galel's bakery, the tea is specially selected from a blend of Tavalon tea created by a close friend.
One of the most popular is known as the Taro Tornado, a light creamy blend of fresh taro and vanilla that's not too sweet.
"We use real tea to make our bubble tea," says Galel. "Most of the bubble tea places use a lot of artificial ingredients. They may taste good and are really sweet, but we're focused on the healthy aspect. It's a balance to keep it tasting good but still healthy."