Review: Cloud Nine Bistro_lowres

Bartender Kevin Davis, (l-r) chef Skie Rainey and owner Mark O'Donnell serve waffles at Cloud Nine Bistro.

In Belgium, the waffle options are endless, but the Liege waffle, or gaufre de Liege, stands out. Named for the Belgian city of Liege, it is dense and chewy and much sweeter than traditional Brussels waffles. Made with brioche dough, the Liege has golden and buttery grids with uneven edges and deep, caramelized pockets. At Cloud Nine Bistro, a new bright and friendly cafe tucked off Magazine Street in the Irish Channel, Liege waffles are the focus.

  Liege waffles are marked by their dough, studded with pearl sugar that melts into the batter as the waffles cook, seeping into the crevasses and forming a caramelized, crispy exterior. In a basic presentation, the waffle is dusted with powdered sugar and served with a side of fresh fruit, such as strawberries or raspberries.

  The decadent Chunky Monkey features caramelized bananas and Nutella — more dessert than breakfast, but delicious nonetheless.

  Waffles provide great canvasses for sweet preparations, but some of Cloud Nine's savory combinations are the most unexpected and successful.

  A savory Liege waffle is topped with sunny side up eggs, two strips of bacon and a heavy pour of maple syrup. Also delicious is the croque madame version, in which thick slices of grilled Canadian bacon are topped with melted sharp cheese and two sunny side up eggs. The dish is served open-faced on a waffle, so when the yolk is broken it drips into all the crevices, making for a pleasing sweet and savory hybrid.

  The menu also includes salads, sandwiches and other breakfast items. A simple grilled Gruyere and cheddar cheese sandwich served on white toast was tasty but small and more appropriate for a kid's meal. The house salad, while very large, featured little beyond chopped romaine lettuce with a sprinkling of stale croutons, cherry tomatoes and shredded cheddar cheese. It seemed out of place on an otherwise creative menu.

  More satisfying was the whimsically named Frenchmen in the Bathtub sandwich, which includes fat slices of roast beef and melted brie cheese on a French roll served with a salty, dark jus for dipping.

  Cloud Nine took over a space formerly occupied by Maple Street Patisserie and Artz Bagelz. The cafe is decorated in cheery pastels, and there are high ceilings and plenty of exposed brick walls.

  On two visits, however, the ventilation was very poor and the room a bit smoky. Dining outside is a better option when possible.

  While improvements are needed to the ventilation system, and some of the regular lunch items could be improved, Cloud Nine Bistro offers both winning sweet and savory ways to scratch that waffle itch.