FARGO — Sabriel Mastin doesn't remember ever eating a waffle without syrup — until Tuesday, May 14.
"It didn't need it," she said of the the Apple Strudel waffle she ordered at Black Coffee and Waffle.
Mastin and her friends Dustin Kerber and Diane Kerber were among the first customers of the new restaurant in the former Metro Drug building at 550 2nd Ave. N. in downtown Fargo. They all raved about their experience and said they would definitely be back.
"The menu is incredible," Diane Kerber said.
Keli Gilbertson, project manager for Black Coffee and Waffle, said the waffles are prepared in-house using homemade recipes and fresh ingredients.
The Naughty Waffle — which features strawberries, bananas, blueberries, almond butter, granola and whipped cream — is their best-selling sweet waffle, Gilbertson said.
The One Bad Pig featuring ham and Swiss cheese is the most popular savory waffle. It's a personal favorite of Gilbertson, who said it's one of the few she eats with syrup.
Exclusive to the Fargo location is the Dakota Luau waffle that comes with pulled pork, pineapple salsa and a honey barbecue drizzle. There is a Build-Your-Own Waffle option as well.
The coffee is equally important to Gilbertson. When she's not busy opening new locations, she's roasting coffee beans.
"I roast our espresso lovingly by hand, 5 pounds at a time. I'm really passionate about coffee," she said. "I've worked in coffee shops since I was 16. I've worked office jobs and always tended to come back to coffee."
She works with Cafe Imports in Minneapolis to ensure their beans are ethically produced and harvested. She said it costs a bit more, but it's worth it to know those who grow the beans are being paid fairly.
"It makes our coffee better, and I always say it's literally made with love every step of the process," she said.
Gilbertson also plans to partner with guest roasters from local coffee shops like Young Blood Coffee Co.
"We'll offer their coffee as a batch brew as well. I'm all about promoting specialty coffee as a concept to the novice coffee drinker," she said.
Black Coffee and Waffle got its start in 2014 when Brad Cimaglio and his business partners re-branded Muddsuckers, a small coffee shop that sold food in the southeast Como neighborhood of Minneapolis. As the name suggests, they decided to slim down the menu to focus solely on waffles and coffee. The concept took off and the partners opened a second location in St. Paul in 2016.
Gilbertson said the Fargo location is modeled after the restaurant in St. Paul. The space features high ceilings and garage-door type windows that can be opened when the weather is right and the construction noise from the nearby Block 9 Plaza is not too loud. The restaurant also features artwork from local artists like Meghan Duda, whose photos presently adorn the west wall.
One thing that is different about the Fargo Black Coffee and Waffle is that it serves beer and wine.
"We’re not trying to be a bar," Gilbertson said. "We’re trying to be a place to have a beer after work, to stretch out when you’re doing a big project, for groups to come study, for big brunches on the weekend."
Gilbertson said Black Coffee and Waffle is tapping an underserved market here.
"Why doesn't Fargo love brunch?" Gilbertson asked. "You guys are getting there. I’ve found a few places that do amazing brunch, but I’m surprised that there isn’t more, especially downtown. We’re excited to be here for downtown. We’re excited to be there for that late-night crowd looking for something to do that maybe isn’t drinking in the bars."