The smell of freshly baked waffles or crepes wafting out from the kitchen, the calm, but uplifting music softly playing in the background and the friendliness of the staff who you can tell are smiling, even though they are wearing face masks, are all characteristics of two new brunch spots in Spokane.
These two such spots, People’s Waffle and Crepe Café Sisters, recently opened brick-and-mortar restaurants after operating out of food trucks during the pandemic.
People’s Waffle, located on 15 S. Howard St. in downtown Spokane, began as a food truck in August of 2020 and was inspired by the Waffle Window in Portland, Oregon, said Alyssa Agee, who co-owns People’s Waffle with her husband Bryan and their business partner, Aaron Hein. When Agee moved back to Spokane from Portland, she missed the Waffle Window and found that Spokane didn’t have a place like it to fill that craving.
Thus, the idea for People’s Waffle was born. People’s Waffle began as a food truck and received an overwhelmingly positive response from the community, Agee said. However, she realized in the middle of December when she was working in the food truck in the cold weather that she wanted People’s Waffle to have a brick-and-mortar restaurant, which was the original idea for the restaurant.
“The truck was kind of a 'oh look what happened, the world shut down, maybe we should try taking it mobile, and it worked for us in that season,'” Agee said.
At People’s Waffle, Agee said the lemon blueberry waffle is a favorite among the sweet waffles, which includes house-made lemon curd, crème anglaise and blueberries. On the savory side of the menu, the "South of the Border" waffle and "The Benny," People’s Waffle’s take on eggs Benedict, are tied, she said.
The space Agee found for People’s Waffle happened to be divided in such a way that was an ideal fit for a coffee shop in addition to the restaurant, and People’s Waffle opened its doors in April of this year.
The coffee shop that inhabits the space, called Emma Rue’s, was an older idea of Agee, her husband and their business partner, in which they wanted to have a space that provides coffee, dessert and cocktails at night.
Although Agee is not classically trained as a chef, she has always been a home baker and the waffle recipe at People’s Waffle belongs to Agee’s grandmother. Agee’s background is in marketing and event planning, and she enjoys implementing new ideas.
“Spokane is just such a perfect place, so ripe for new ideas, and we have some incredible restaurants and some fabulous small businesses, but so many opportunities still happening, and that’s what’s really exciting about being here in this time, is that you can bring a lot of really cool ideas to fruition,” Agee said.
Moving to a brick-and-mortar restaurant presented its own challenges. There are more moving parts in a brick-and-mortar than in a food truck, Agee and her co-owners had to figure out how to build a commercial kitchen from the ground up and staffing was challenging during COVID-19.
For Agee, the most rewarding part of co-owning People’s Waffle is the people. She credits her team and their passion for serving their customers as well.
“What I love is the joy and the community and connection that you see,” Agee said. “Food brings us together, and so I love getting to witness that in our dining room.”
Another local business that recently opened a brick-and-mortar location is Crepe Café Sisters in Kendall Yards.
Crepe Café Sisters began as a pop-up tent at the Liberty Lake farmers market and was originally known as Crepe Café. The mayor of Liberty Lake at the time wanted to be a vendor at the market and was the first owner of the business. Now, Crepe Café Sisters is co-owned by Ashley Sadaoui and her sister, Jessica Moon, who bought the business in 2015.
Sadaoui and Moon were the first owners of the business to branch out to other farmers markets in the area and rebranded the company to Crepe Café Sisters, so customers would associate it with them, Sadaoui said. They bought the food truck for Crepe Café Sisters in January of 2020, which was perfect timing because Crepe Café Sisters was still able to operate during the pandemic.
Neither Sadaoui nor Moon have a culinary background, but they decided to take on the business and see what they could do with it. When it came time to open a brick-and-mortar cafe, Moon planned the entire layout and they opened the cafe on May 14 of this year.
“We both have a kind of an entrepreneur kind of bone in us,” Sadaoui said.
Having their own kitchen and having space to store product has been a huge help, Sadaoui said, although having a food truck is also beneficial because it allows her and her sister to take their business to where the people are.
At Crepe Café Sisters, the most popular sweet crepes are the "Razzle Dazzle", featuring homemade raspberry sauce, and the "Berry Nutty", featuring homemade strawberry sauce and Nutella. The most popular savory crepe is "The Pickett", which includes spinach, feta, fire roasted tomatoes, pesto and the option to add meat, she said. "The Bebe" crepe is also the business’s signature option, which includes homemade lemon curd and blueberries.
For Sadaoui, serving her customers is the best part of Crepe Café Sisters. She also loves to help her employees, she said, which was a huge part of her motivation for moving forward with Crepe Café Sisters.
“I know that a lot of people look at Jess and I and we’re young females, like ‘how could you have a business’ type of thing, so we really like to invest and give back into our employees, and if they have any questions or aspirations, they can always come to us,” Sadaoui said.