If you haven’t dodged work for about three hours on a Tuesday afternoon to lounge in the sun-soakedness of Culver City’s Hayden, you should. But you also don’t need to. Because from 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m., seven days a week, Hayden has wine and waffles for you.
The current iteration of the venue is doubly optimized: the menu, from James Beard semifinalist chef Ari Kolender, made it’s shift to all-day fun when oysters and natural wines were supplemented by salads, sandwiches, desserts, and yes, waffles. The space itself, meanwhile, underwent a renovation back in February. The result is a greenhouse-cum-library where the plants are Pinots and the books are banana bread.
Also, Hayden has banana bread.
Despite our sweet tooth, it was the wines that first intrigued us about Hayden, and as a wine bar, it continues to be their primary point of emphasis. We loved that Oregonian wines were not limited to the Reds section here, as we sucked down a mellow Willamette Valley rosé like it was trying to escape. But we didn’t limit ourselves to hometown heroes, and the offering beyond the PNW was even more eclectic. From a Pet-Nat Gamay not unlike a watermelon-pear kombucha but wildly addictive, to a Central Coast Sangiovese that rotated in as part of a funk-forward showcase and wowed us with notes of strawberry, cola, and rosewater. Or as know them collectively, the perfume of Jesus.
Wines rotate every two or three weeks, said beverage director Akari Yamumura, and any wine on the menu will have a bottle available for retail purchase in-store at a lower price.
Now picture yourself unfolded over the bar, swirling your wine as the golden glow of non-urgency palms your face, and this smell begins to envelop you, as if signaling that somewhere a butter churn is burning. This is the glorious smell of buckwheat batter baking to that perfect bronze crispness with a pillowy interior. This is waffles, fam, and Hayden does some killer ones.
From their selections of Classic, Raspberry Jam + Ricotta, and crowd favorite Jambon de Beyonne with honey butter and a soft egg, we chose D) Blueberry and Miso Maple Butter. Because Oregon.
Something about the subtle saltiness of the miso butter took this sweet nostalgic treat to new heights. If our plate was the delivery room, then the parents were a fresh-baked blueberry muffin and maple-flavored popcorn, which needs to be a thing.
As we chased our waffle with aforementioned banana bread (and then, because it was so sweet, chased that with some otherworldly sopressata with chili garlic), we asked Yamumura, “Look, wine and waffles – is this a thing?” And she kind of shrugged, and to be fair, that’s kind of what Google did as well. Apart from the spare ad-hoc locations around the U.S. positioned as novelty concepts, there really was no “waffle wine bar” movement to speak of.
But Yamumura did confirm that patrons order those glorious waffles all day long, including for dinner. When considered with the tide of all-day breakfast-and-beverage concepts, including the West Side’s own Lunetta All Day, and even not-until-evening breakfast concepts like Nighthawk in Marina del Rey, Hayden reinforces a challenge to the notion that waffles are only appropriate for things like mornings, weekends, or coffee. Eaters are embracing flexible definitions of mealtimes and drinktimes, opting for the comfort foods they love when (and with what) they want them.
We, for one, hope it continues, and like a reverse extinction gives rise to yet-to-be-beheld marvels. From the decaf iced coffee to BFW: breakfast fried rice. Let the syrup – simple, or maple – flow unfettered.