For many Cornellians, Waffle Frolic has been a Sunday brunch staple for years. Founded by two Ithaca college students in 2010, the Ithaca Commons establishment pledged to combine the spirit of Ithaca with urban edge in its unique mission. Waffle Frolic was the only specialized waffle eatery in Ithaca up until its closure on Oct. 15. According to the Ithaca Voice, the owners attributed the close to the rising cost of raw materials over the past few years as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, which made it difficult to stay in business. The lack of availability of parking in the downtown area exacerbated the problem.
As two transfer students with little knowledge of the dining scene in Ithaca, we went to Waffle Frolic on it’s last day, Saturday, Oct. 15 with open minds and hearts based on what we’d heard from student customers — that Waffle Frolic closing was a detriment to the Ithaca community.
On Waffle Frolic’s website, they described themselves as offering “a wide variety of sweet and savory waffle combinations, a full espresso bar, grilled cheese sandwiches, smoothies, Purity Ice Cream and more.” They seemed to value local flavors with their 100 percent organic maple syrup originating from Schoolyard Sugarbush in Moravia, N.Y., the same maple products sold at the Ithaca Farmers Market. Their waffles also come in two sizes: single or twin, depending on how eager you are for a warm pillow of flour and sugar.
Upon inspecting the menu, these offerings were true and vast. However, did the food live up to their hype? Was Waffle Frolic’s closing valid aside from the circumstantial problems the business encountered?
Walking in, the first thing we assessed was the general vibe of the restaurant. We expected a more traditional sit-down brunch experience and were instead met with a café-style, order-and-seat-yourself situation. Upon ordering, the staff was friendly and the food came out quickly … but at what cost? Our food was barely warm and unexpectedly overpriced, with a sandwich and milkshake coming out to a whopping $16.20, and a brunch plate and matcha coming out to an obscene $15.66.
We also arrived at about 2 p.m. with closing time being 3 p.m., so options were limited based on the remaining ingredients. The upstairs seating area was closed, so we settled for the cafeteria-style, more colorful seating on the street level.
We made our way to the downstairs seating area and found brick walls and local art, making for a very cozy atmosphere not necessarily describable as having an “urban edge.” We waited a few minutes for an open table and waited for our Shake Shack-esque buzzers to beep.
Catherine soon chowed down on her Eggs Florentine, “two over easy eggs topped with sauteed spinach, roasted red peppers and housemade hollandaise sauce,” and a side of toast. The eggs were a little too runny and the ratio of the vegetable to egg was off, with the spinach and peppers completely overtaking the plate. However, the hollandaise sauce was surprisingly delicious, masking the runniness and other flaws of the dish. Overall, it could be considered worth $5.50. The $2.00 side toast was just two thin pieces of panini-pressed bread resembling a cracker, even though it was noted on the receipt as being french bread. Interesting. And, the $8.00 iced matcha tasted like it was made from concentrate and overly sweetened.
Margaret ordered The Cascadilla, a “pressed waffle sammie” with “two freshly scrambled eggs, sliced tomato, fresh spinach and havarti cheese stuffed in a hemp and buckwheat waffle.” The waffles themselves were fairly bland but had a decent texture. The eggs were also bland, the tomatoes were falling out of the sandwich, the spinach was not at all wilted, and the cheese was cold. Not just slightly melted, but cold.
The mustard on the side was the only redeeming part of the sandwich, with a pungent kick strong enough to balance the overall insipidity. Quite disappointing for $9.00, especially because that on its own did not fill her up. But, the cookie dough milkshake she ordered made up for the waffle, as it should have for $6.00. It was creamy, the perfect level of sweet and large enough to satiate her.
Although we may not have had the best brunch ever, we duly note that the errors may have been due to permanent closing within the hour. It is also important to note that Ithaca cuisine, which caters heavily to college students, cannot exactly be compared to that of New York City, where we both hail from. Waffle Frolic may have very well been the perfect spot for an end-of-weekend debrief had it not cost as much as it did. Your average college student definitely would not have been able to afford this every Sunday. But in sum, although this was our first and last time there, we are sure Waffle Frolic will be dearly missed by those who knew it in its prime.
Margaret Haykin is a sophomore in the College of Industrial and Labor Relations. She can be reached at [email protected]. Catherine Zhang is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].