Up until this point, a "waffle pizza" was just something you microwaved together after a stoned Game of Thrones binge. But in LA, there's now an entire restaurant that proves that pizza is the best thing to happen to waffles since fried chicken.
Seoul Waffle Pizza is tucked away on the second floor of an unassuming Koreatown strip mall. You could easily walk past the tiny space and not notice its kitchen turning out pizzas topped with bulgogi, kimchi, and hearty drizzles of fermented and savory gochujang over oozing cheese.
The "Avo Green" pizza with avocado, grilled chicken, pickled onion, and chipotle sauce.
While the shop offers simple pepperoni and mozzarella for purists, it's 22-year-old owner James Kim's inventive flavor combinations that are worth the visit. His brunch-inspired waffle pizza is layered with egg, bacon, potato, and parmesan, accompanied by a cup of maple syrup to be drizzled over the whole mess ever so slowly. The hamburger steak pizza—with its thousand island dressing and a lightly crispy waffle crust—recalls the taste and texture of In-N-Out's perfected burger and its grilled bun crunch. And who knew corn could be great on pizza? Kim's "Seoul Lover" pizza makes the case, with bulgogi, grilled kimchi, and mozzarella completing the pie.
Kim has no professional culinary training—though he does happen to be a champion beatboxer—but he's so serious about keeping his waffles crispy that Seoul Waffle Pizza doesn't do delivery or to-go orders. He says it's best eaten immediately.
The "Seoul Lover" is a mishmash of bulgogi, corn, mozzarella, and kimchi.
While Kim's waffles can't readily be compared to typical pizza crusts, they're uniquely crispy, light, and airy—just slightly thicker than a New York thin crust-style pie. He perfected the batter over the course of three gluttonous months, making and eating waffle pizzas for every meal before the restaurant opened.
Kim also claims that his pizza is a low-calorie variation that's healthier than your average pie, and that has a lot to do with his crust recipe. "To be honest, for me, I can gain weight really easily, so that's why I can't eat [pizza] all the time," he says. There's comparatively little flour his batter, and health-minded customers can choose between whole-wheat or white flour options.
While you might think that Korean waffle pizza is just another imported trend from across the Pacific (like honey butter chips), Kim says it's an invention all his own. "It hasn't been done at all before."
Seoul Waffle Pizza is tucked inside a Koreatown strip mall.
And yet Kim, who was born in Seoul and grew up in Southern California, didn't like pizza for most of his life. It wasn't until he visited New York seven months ago for a beatboxing gig that he fell for the city's famed slice.
"When I got to New York, their pizza was so different from LA," Kim says. "The pizza was really light, and the texture was amazing."
Having visited pizza joints across Manhattan and Brooklyn, Kim decided to open a shop of his own, but he worried that LA was already oversaturated with pizza places. How could he stand out from the rest?
The waffle idea came from his mother. Although Kim had always loved waffles, the idea for waffle pizza came from his mother, and he ran with the idea. "I love eating," he says.
To gain some experience before opening his own place, Kim took a job as a server at the upscale Beverly Hills Korean BBQ restaurant Genwa. For three months, he studied how they served customers and ran the restaurant. Kim also noticed that non-Koreans were eating up Korean food in droves. "There was so much interest in Korean food," he says.
The shop's recent surge in popularity is a testament to that. After all, who could possibly say no to waffle pizza?
This first appeared on MUNCHIES in April 2016.