When I asked 22-year-old owner James Kim, who was manning the counter, his girlfriend the only other employee in the shop, if Seoul Waffle Pizza was a Korea-based chain, he explained, “No, it only exists here.” I asked if it was a spinoff of a similar concept in Korea, and if waffle pizza was the latest burgeoning trend. How many places are doing this anyways? “No, I mean, it only exists like right here,” he said, pointing to the ground. “We just kind of made it up.”
As someone who tracks food trends across the Wild West of the internet for a living, it’s rare to stumble upon such a uniquely zeitgeisty concept, and it’s even more rare to find that it’s being made by someone who seems relatively unconcerned with its viral potential. For Kim, a Cal Poly Pomona business grad with no culinary background other than a brief server gig at Genwa in Beverly Hills, Seoul Waffle Pizza just came naturally.
“I was in New York for a year and a half, and I got really into pizza there. I didn’t know it could be so light and crispy like that,” he said. “I also really, really love waffles. And since I’m Korean, fusion waffle pizzas became the idea.”
Kim uses a water and baking powder-based batter—he offers both white and whole wheat—that’s cut with rice flour so it doesn’t taste bready. After the dough is crisped up in a shallow, square waffle iron, it gets topped with everything from the classic pepperoni and red sauce, to bulgogi, corn, and grilled kimchi, and thrown under a broiler until the cheese is all toasty and melty.
The pizzas take about ten minutes to hit your table—there’s a large communal situation inside and a series of two-tops along a narrow patio space—and you have the option of adding a cup of real maple syrup on the side for $1.50. And why wouldn’t you? You’re already eating waffle pizza—might as well go full bore.
Not only is the waffle remarkably crispy, which allows it to hold up under the weight of the toppings, but the whole gestalt makes a certain amount of structural sense. Marinara sauce (or cho-gochujang if you opt for the Spicy Chicken) gets trapped in the waffle divots and gives you the occasional saucy flavor shot right to the dome.
This is neither the flavorless neon hypno wheel known as the rainbow bagel, nor is it one of those opulent milkshakes that’s days away from sparking a Marie Antoinette-style social upheaval. Not to put unnecessary pressure on the humble waffle pizza (wafflizza?), but if you had to choose its closest novelty food comparison, it might be the cronut.
There was never anything wrong with waffles and pizza by themselves, in the same sense that there no glaring problems with croissants and donuts. But when you combine the two via novelty food alchemy, you get the perfect intersection of form, function, and Instagrammable magic.
Seoul Waffle Pizza, Oxford Plaza, 3525 W. 8th Street, Koreatown (213-232-0104)