“Welcome to Nina’s!” I am greeted with sweet, warm air and a soft glow from a burgundy marquee sign that reads “NINA’S.” Chalkboards surround the room, displaying the variety of flavors and dishes available at Nina’s Waffles and Ice Cream, ranging from chocolate ganache to mashed yukon gold potato waffles, as well as sweet and fruity ice creams to complement the waffles. High school and university students, families, and adults alike visit the restaurant throughout the day, creating an open, friendly environment for anyone who happens to stop by the family-owned chain’s newest location at 252 Nassau Street.
Tom Pappas, co-owner of Nina’s Waffles and Ice Cream, explained what work’s been like since the restaurant’s opening. “It’s been very exciting [since we opened]. Our first few months were about construction and preparing the store for opening. Now that we have opened, it’s a whole different set of things to do. It’s very energizing for us,” Pappas said.
Pappas also elaborated on the origins of the fusion between waffles and ice cream. “Well, the creator of Nina’s was actually born in Belgium, where we get those famous Liege Belgian waffles,” Pappas said. Liege waffles have a buttery vanilla flavor with caramelized sugar on top. “He got the recipe and when he came to America, he created that [combination]. He actually went to school to learn how to hand craft ice cream, so it’s all his creation and we embraced it and are hoping it’ll grow.”
I saw familiar faces the moment I walked into the restaurant. PHS students work at Nina’s and, according to Pappas, comprise 90 percent of the restaurant’s staff. Pappas emphasized the importance of making sure every employee can deliver the same message of what Nina’s means to all of its customers.
While there, I tried the Mac n’ Cheese waffle, as I am not very accustomed to eating savory waffles. According to Pappas, while every customer enjoys a different dish at Nina’s, the Mac n’ Cheese waffles seem to be the popular favorite. The waffle has cheese inside it, rather than on top of it, and is topped with a tangy sauce and chives to make for the perfect combination of flavor.
Nina’s Waffles and Ice Cream is one of those restaurants that makes you feel overwhelmed with its 24 artisan ice cream flavors, but also always makes you eager to come back to try another combination of flavors. The staff is inviting, the setting is trendy and stylish, and the concept of the food itself is refreshing and captivating. It’s the perfect spot for PHS students to take a break and enjoy themselves with a balance of savory and sweet. “I hope that [the customers] had a fun experience, [that] they had nice food in a fun, friendly environment, and that they would want to come back again and bring their friends,” Pappas said.