Riddle me this: What do you get when you cross a waffle with all-natural Angus beef?
The answer: a delectable waffle burger from the newest restaurant in North Fresno, Griddle Me This.
The casual dining restaurant is the brainchild of husband and wife owners Riki Toba and Tina Qi.
“We’re both foodies. We love to eat and we love to explore. When we travel, the first thing on my mind is where are we going to eat,” Qi said.
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Qi is from the Bay Area and Toba is from the Los Angeles area; when they got married they decided to move somewhere centrally located to their families and put their passion for food into a business unlike anything Fresno has to offer.
“Waffle sandwich shops are getting popular in the D.C. area, Boston and Southern California,” Qi said. “They have their own waffle recipes and we decided to create our own.”
The couple spent about a year perfecting their waffle recipe before the opening of Griddle Me This on July 10 at 7675 N. Blackstone Ave. in the Universal Park shopping center across the street from River Park.
“We ate a lot of waffles,” Qi said with a laugh. “The thing about our waffle recipe is it’s not the normal Belgian waffle that most people have in their mind — thick and sweet. Our waffle is a lot lighter, airier and has a light crisp on the outside. It has a neutral flavor, a little more toward the savory side. It goes really well with both savory items and sweet desserts.”
The waffles are so good, the owners are careful to keep their recipe secret.
“Not even our employees know how to make it,” Toba said.
On the Griddle Me This menu, the waffles replace bread, buns and cookies in popular sandwich, burger and ice cream sandwich recipes. The food is fresh and made to order, without compromising the speed of service.
“The waffle batter is prepared the night before or the morning of because there is yeast in it and it takes some time to activate it,” Qi said. “We pour it into the waffle maker and it takes three minutes to cook it through, but you take an extra minute to air it out.”
While the waffle cooks, workers prepare the fillings.
Along with waffle burgers, the restaurant’s Classic Chicken N’ Waffle is a popular order, Qi said.
Most sandwiches cost $7.95 or $8.95.
While Toba said he loves the Hot Pastrami or Newport Steak Sandwich, which features tri-tip, barbecue sauce and slaw, Qi’s favorite is The Monte Cristo, a Waffle’wich with turkey, prosciutto, raspberry jam and melted gruyere. She adds arugula and an over-easy egg on top.
“My favorite changes all the time; it depends on my mood,” she said. “If I want something meaty, I go with a burger or pastrami. The other day I was craving PB&J.”
Peanut Butter Jelly Time is on the regular menu as well as the children’s menu. A kids’ meal includes sliced apples and apple juice.
“We play around with our sandwiches a lot,” Qi said. “What you see on the menu is just what we have for now, but as we do more experimenting we’re may introduce new things.”
One of those new dishes may be a pizza waffle.
“We want to make food fun for everyone,” Qi said. “It’s not the same old things everyday. We want our menu to always change.”
Griddle Me This has vegetarian options, including veggie patties for any waffle burger, including the Tex Mex — jack cheese, avocado, jalapeño and salsa — and the All-American with lettuce, tomato and cheddar cheese.
The couple is working on a gluten-free waffle batter to cater to customers with dietary restrictions and Celiac disease, but hasn’t been satisfied with the taste of any of their trials.
For $3.95, customers can get a heaping basket of waffle fries, sweet potato fries, cajun fries, fried green beans or onion rings. A smaller portion of these sides and a fountain drink can be added to any savory waffle option to make it a combo for $2.50.
But customers should leave room for dessert.
“The Ice Cream Waffle’wich is to-die-for because of the freshly made waffle that is hot and then you put that cold ice cream in the middle and the hot and cold fuses together; it just explodes in your mouth,” Qi said.
There are eight flavors of ice cream to choose from, along with chocolate or caramel drizzle, and toppings that include crushed peanuts, sliced almonds and salted pretzel. A half-waffle sandwich is $4.50, but a full waffle can be ordered for $6, which is a better deal and enough to share with friends and family.
Other dessert options include Lemon Creme and Seasonal Berries, S’mores Please and Nutella & Whipped Cream with choice of strawberries or banana. The marshmallows used in S’mores Please are made in-house, with some vanilla thrown in to add some pizzazz.
Toba and Qi expect to get their beer license in the next couple of weeks and hope to partner with local breweries.
“Beer and burgers and waffles go perfectly together,” Qi said.
The couple also hopes to partner with other local businesses for their ice cream offerings and other products.
“We would like to have local vendors and we’d like to have money stay in Fresno,” Toba said. “We want Fresno people to enjoy this place and support their local businesses.”
Toba pictures the restaurant as “a hangout spot,” he said.
“We want it very laid-back here,” he said. “We want sports on the TVs. We want everybody to be comfortable. We want you to come in and get fresh food, maybe have a beer and watch the game here.”
On the restaurant’s large, blank wall, the couple hopes to showcase work from local artists.
“We could do a gallery for them where we wouldn’t make any money off of them, but just give them a space to present their art,” Qi said. “If anyone is interested in purchasing art, that’s between the artist and the purchaser.”
The restaurant is sandwiched between Red Robin and Doy Grill. It opened quietly, with just a small Facebook blast alerting local residents to its presence.
“Everything kind of took off from there,” Qi said. “We’ve gotten a lot of great responses. A lot of people tell us it’s not what they thought it would be because they were picturing the sweet waffles.”
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is in the works with the Fresno Chamber of Commerce. Griddle Me This has a staff of 10 employees and the owners are looking to hire a few more.
The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m Friday and Saturday. The phone number is (559) 301-1933.
Follow Griddle Me This on Facebook at www.facebook.com/griddlemefresno and, soon, on Instagram.
“We’re working on our Instagram account because it’s food and we eat with our eyes,” Qi said.