By John Schilling
Many people may recall February 2020 as the last time everything was normal, as COVID-19 would soon turn the world upside down that March. For the Waffle Box, a nearby chicken, waffles, and ice cream bar, it was a time of great excitement, but that all changed two weeks after their opening.
“Here we were with a business plan that was supposed to incorporate our community, and without notice, we were faced with serving the community…from a socially distant standpoint,” Tamara Dewar, the co-owner of the Waffle Box, told The Vanguard. “We were forced to utilize all the delivery platforms and try to maintain all COVID restrictions [with] limited staff and support.”
Just a few blocks away from the Brooklyn College campus at 1682 Flatbush Avenue, the comfort food restaurant is the brainchild of “the Sylvestre/Dewar team,” the family responsible for the Juicy Box Bar just up the block from the Waffle Box at 2281 Nostrand Avenue, as well as the Seafood Box, which opened in late 2020 and is also fairly close to campus at 2114 Nostrand Avenue.
Before opening the Juicy Box Bar, the Sylvestre/Dewar team had Brooklyn College students in mind for potential customers. When the family decided to open the Waffle Box, however, the focus had shifted to address what they perceived as a need in the community.
“[When] we did Waffle box, it was more [about] the community because we didn’t have anywhere that offered chicken, waffle, ice cream or some of the comfort foods that we have,” explained Dewar. “We are more targeting the younger crowd.”
Dewar is no stranger to the Brooklyn College community, having enrolled as a student in the late 1990s as a part of BC’s now-defunct nursing program. When it was cut by the city, according to Dewar, she had to transfer to Kingsborough Community College (KBCC), where she would go on to graduate with a nursing degree.
Since opening in 2020, the Waffle Box has returned to business as usual, offering a wide array of crispy chicken and waffles, shrimp and waffles, waffle fries, ice cream, milkshakes, some Haitian cuisine, and vegan food options for those who do not eat meat across breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
“[The] concept is a combination of how the chicken and waffles are being served in China and a little bit [of] American waffle house,” said Dewar, who strongly recommends the waffle served with rum raisin ice cream.
For the Sylvestre/Dewar team, navigating a new business in the middle of a pandemic was challenging, but the family is optimistic about what is to come.
“I believe that anything in the beginning will have challenges, and the pandemic definitely made it even harder,” said Dewar. “But we are pushing through and praying for the best.”