The mystery of the famous waffles

The unlikely international intrigue of a mall kiosk

Ham and American cheese, inside a fresh, folded waffle
  • Ham and American cheese, inside a fresh, folded waffle

The inconsistencies started piling up.

Famous Waffle Sandwich

272 E Via Rancho Parkway, Escondido

Knowing I would wind up in Escondido at the end of a long workday, I poked around online to find some convenient place to grab a snack before tackling the crowded freeway home. One Yelp listing stood out: Famous Waffle Sandwich. It featured mostly professional pictures of a mall kiosk serving warm waffles folded into taco-shaped sandwiches, filled with ingredients such as chocolate, peanut butter, bananas, and marshmallows, many of them melting.

It's confirmed: this Famous Waffle Sandwich mall kiosk definitely exists.

It's confirmed: this Famous Waffle Sandwich mall kiosk definitely exists.

It had potential, but I wanted to know more about this six-month-old shop. Was it a new franchise? The home page of its website turned up the following copy: “The country’s original Belgian Waffle Sandwich and fastest growing franchise — with over 200 stores nationwide in less than two years.”

Then, directly beneath it, the words, “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet….” The standard nonsense text used by graphic designers as a placeholder until a copywriter provides actual language about waffles, or fast growing franchises, etc.

Except, was this genuinely a franchise? When I plugged in web searches for “Famous Waffle Sandwiches,” I couldn’t find evidence of another shop by this name anywhere in the world, let alone 200 within the U.S. There were barely any results supporting the existence of this Escondido shop.

Scrolling to the bottom of the Famous Waffle website, respective links to “Follow us on” Facebook and Instagram led to those site’s generic homepages. I spotted another link called “Locations,” and followed it, expecting to find a map, or a list of 200-plus Famous Waffle Sandwiches nationwide.

Instead, things only got weirder.

The ‘Locations’ link returned a pdf brochure for something called Fruitybox.ru. Judging by the photos in the 13-page document, Fruitybox is a Russian purveyor of tropical fruits: pineapples, mangos, and the like. I can’t be sure, though, because other than the word Fruitybox, everything else is written in the Cyrillic alphabet.

Just as spurious, back on the Famous Waffle site, I scrolled all the way down to find the business attributed to a company with the uncanny name, Innovention Food Resources Inc., “USA Address – TBD.”

By this point, I started to seriously entertain the notion this kiosk could be some phony web construction, some truly pointless brand of fake news. Only one way to find out. The afternoon in question rolled around, and I found myself wandering through the North County Westfield, only half certain I would find waffles.

But, sure enough, there it was, an open-air kiosk in the center of corridor, manned by a single, lanky teen. As he poured batter into a waffle iron, and readied slices of ham and American cheese to build my sweet and savory, $4.99 ham and cheese waffle sandwich, he explained to me it’s a franchise based in the Philippines, and the Escondido location is actually the first in the U.S.

Overseas, the shops are known as Famous Belgian Waffles, which are relatively easy to track down online. Of course, he couldn’t explain how Fruitybox.ru has anything to do with a Filipino waffle business, but by that time I had solved the mystery enough to walk away with a warm, made-to-order snack of cheap ham, partially melted cheese, and thin, chewy waffle, and that was decent enough to suffice. Traffic awaited.

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