Out from behind the counter walks a thin man with a red Afro, wearing a T-shirt and shorts, carrying two plates of custom ordered waffles. He walks over to an older couple’s table and sets the plates down. He turns to the older gentleman and asks about his egg. Before the man can respond, he offers to remake it. The man cuts into his egg and tells him it’s just fine.
The man with the infamous Afro is 28-year-old Omer Orion, the co-owner of Off the Waffle. Off the Waffle is a liege waffle shop located in the Friendly Area Neighborhood.
The liege waffle is made from a yeast-based dough that contains imported Belgian pearl sugar. The sugar caramelizes throughout the waffle giving it a distinctive taste. The liege waffles are not the only component that makes Off the Waffle unique. They put a variety of toppings on the waffles from eggs to kalamata olives to ice cream; each dish has its own name and personality. Off the Waffle’s catchphrase is, “Forget everything you thought you knew about waffles.” Even though it sounds exotic, a simple road trip encouraged Orion and his brother Dave to open the restaurant.
Orion has lived in Belgium, Israel, Boston, California and now Eugene. But when he and Dave arrived here in 2008, they knew Eugene felt like home. Growing up in Belgium, they always had liege waffles, and they were something both men loved eating. So, they perfected their own recipe, and in February of 2008 they put their waffle making to the test, by opening up their first shop in the Jefferson Westside area.
They turned the first level of their house into a 24-hour waffle shop. About a year later, they came up with the idea for a 24-hour cart. But they had too many problems with the plumbing and the brothers shut the cart down. Living out of their house while running Off the Waffle simultaneously is how they were able to afford the new space on Willamette Street, where the old Baskin Robbins used to be.
Orion’s fiancée and co-worker Emma Spehar remembers when they were first starting out, “I was like, what the hell are you guys doing?” She was unsure about the business at first but is astounded by how far they’ve come. “I honestly didn’t think anything would come of it.” Spehar says it’s been amazing for her to see how Off the Waffle has become a successful business.
Running Off the Waffle has been a learning experience and a lot of hard work. “The biggest challenge has been all the little details. There are millions of them,” Orion says. He is in the shop from when it opens at 7 a.m. to when it closes at 8 p.m. It’s abnormal if Orion isn’t there. If he’s not serving customers, he’s washing dishes, he’s cooking waffles or he’s in the back maintaining the paper work.
Orion says his motivation comes from his passion, his love and the people he works with. His passion does not go unnoticed. Orion has spent eight years making waffles and perfecting his recipe. The quality of his food is only one way he shows the customers how much he loves what he does. “We love waffles, and it makes so much sense to us that people would love our waffles too,” Orion says.
Not only is he grateful for the people who eat here, Orion says the best part of his job is watching his place and his staff grow. Elizabeth Potter notices it when she works with Orion. “He’s a big fan of high fives… He’ll definitely be like ‘Oh my God, I love you guys, good job, I really appreciate it,’” Potter says. As long as everyone else is happy, Orion tends to be pretty happy too.
His staff respects him; they come to him for help when they’re uncertain, Potter says. She loves working at Off the Waffle because not only is Orion her boss, he is a really good friend to her. Potter says he treats the crew like they’re family. Orion says what people are beginning to notice is he’s a normal guy with a family, “This pays my family’s bills, and it supports us.”
Off the Waffle is Orion’s dream, and Eugene has made it possible for him. The hard work and dedication to Off the Waffle has paid off. “Everything that I want comes to me now, everything that I need comes to me, and everything that I dream fulfills itself,” Orion says. “I’m the luckiest guy in the world; I’m probably the luckiest guy you’ll ever meet.”