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ISSUE 121 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/7/2008

Waffle bar promises renewed nightlife

By Kirstin Fawcett
Copy Editor

Friday, March 7, 2008

St. Olaf and Carleton coeds used to bemoan Northfield's lack of nightlife. A town where even Perkins, the 24-hour student source for coffee, finals food and midnight munchies closes at 11 p.m., Northfield often seemed less like a college town and more like a retirement community.

Nevertheless, just when daylight savings time had made Northfield nights longer and bleaker than ever, a beam of hope burst from 303 Division Street. What was this source of optimism that inspired scholars from both sides of the river to crawl out of winter hibernation and tread downtown? And what was that fabulous sugary smell?

The answer to both questions is Sweet Lou's Waffle Bar. Opened by Carleton religion professor Louis Newman in December 2007, Sweet Lou's, with its all-encompassing business hours of 7 a.m. to 2 a.m., was supposed to be a source of caffeine for sleepy students, a family-friendly breakfast bar and a welcome addition overall to downtown Northfield. Unfortunately, Sweet Lou's closed as rapidly as it opened due to much-needed kitchen and roof renovations. Nevertheless, the restaurant underwent a triumphant reincarnation last month, permanently re-opening for business on Feb. 24.

Sweet Lou's, located only two doors down from Northfield's favorite coffee shop, Goodbye Blue Monday, has just as much to offer as its neighbor in terms of study space and tasty treats. The restaurant's central eating area is designated for all-age carbohydrate consumption. With an assortment of low tables, chairs and booster seats for family outings, armchairs for the early-bird special set and teetering bar stools that make underage eaters feel like they're almost 21, Sweet Lou's is a perfect destination for every occasion, from study dates to meeting your mom for brunch. Adjacent to the main room is a cozy nook scattered with squishy leather couches, which comfortably seat both customers and patrons merely interested in taking advantage of Sweet Lou's free WiFi and board games. The walls, painted a light chocolate brown, are scattered with scrumptious slides of whipped cream-covered waffles that tantalize all who enter to pay an extra $3 for the double-sized special (regular waffles run from $3.75-7.70).

While Sweet Lou's easy atmosphere and late-night hours beckon clients from all social sectors, its extensive menu, offering "Wake-Up" breakfast waffles, "Any Time of Day" waffles, "Design Your Own" waffles and "Top Your Day Off Right" waffles, is the restaurant's real customer draw. Named after all things Minnesotan, ordering options range from the Wake-Up "Judy Garland" waffle, covered in peaches and granola, to the Any Time of Day "Bob Dylan" waffle, featuring lox, sour cream and sliced cucumber, all the way to the sweet-tooth satisfying Top Your Day Off Right "Jesse James" waffle, which is smothered in raspberries and hot fudge.

For the adventurous few wanting to defy conventional breakfast, dinner and dessert combinations, the Design Your Own waffle, reminiscent of Coldstone Creamery's self-mix service, offers nearly 30 toppings for 50 cents each. Finally, Carleton and St. Olaf-specific waffle combinations add a splash of cross-town college rivalry to the menu. "Hail to the Maize and Blue," named after Carleton's fight song, is appropriately color-coordinated with blueberry and lemon toppings. "The Ole Roller" is similarly reminiscent of collegiate tradition, as both its title and caramel-pecan drizzle pay homage to the now-defunct Ole Store's sticky buns.

Sweet Lou's additionally possesses a conscience, along with a friendly ambiance and scrumptious selection of food. Sustainability is encouraged through recyclable paper products, reusable flatware and compact fluorescent lighting. Community welfare is promoted through donating money to charities and purchasing locally grown products.

Finally, Sweet Lou's mission statement conveys the establishment's desire to treat customers -- as well as employees -- just right. Workers are eligible for health care benefits and an incentive pay plan, whereas unsatisfied patrons are entitled to a money-back guarantee. So follow your hearts -- and your stomachs -- by hitting Sweet Lou's Waffle Bar, whether to refuel after a late night or to treat yourself to a sweet study snack. After all, Sweet Lou's deserves as much -- and so do you.

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