Located between Space Downtown and Hot Yoga Charlottesville at 214 W Water Street, Iron Paffles is owned by English immigrant and entrepreneur Kathryn Matthews. The restaurant is hard to miss, with decals on the restaurant’s exterior windows and a blackboard outside the door advertising special sandwiches.
When I walked in I was greeted by a vibrant mural and local artwork available for purchase displayed on the wall. Their 90s R&B playlist adds to the atmosphere and can be found on their @ironcville Spotify account so you can bring their good vibes with you to the door.
The idea for the restaurant came after Matthews once found himself with a bread shortage in college. She opted to use leftover puff pastry instead – and that’s how her vision for Iron Paffles was born.
With Matthews’ hospitality degree and experience working in the restaurant and bar industry, his vision for a restaurant paffle came to life and contributed to the eclectic collection of restaurants that makes downtown Charlottesville so special. Iron paffles and coffee opened in 2017 and has flourished ever since.
The paffle is a flaky waffle – wonderfully flaky and the perfect canvas for sweet and savory fillings. Matthews learned how to make puff pastry from scratch with his grandmother’s recipe. When baked on a waffle maker, the delicate batter puffs up into a perfectly sized waffle with numerous flaky pockets filled with flavor. The paffle is a deliciously crispy – if a little messy – sandwich that provides an interesting and exciting dining experience.
Iron Paffles has a wide menu ranging from sweet paffles stuffed with nutella and banana to salty fried chicken and macaroni and cheese paffles that are easily customizable at a price of around $9 each. Iron Paffles also caters to most dietary preferences by offering gluten-free, vegan, and build-your-own options.
The delicious combinations keep you coming back with the restaurant’s ever-improving menu featuring seasonal paffles – like the Thanksgiving-inspired “Southern Thanksgiving Sammy” filled with cornbread stuffing over fried chicken and maple syrup – as well as weekly specials and all-you-can-eat sandwich combinations. By sourcing ingredients locally, Iron Paffles contributes to Charlottesville’s food community and helps support other small businesses.
Iron Paffles has a great online presence – with an easy to navigate website and engaging Facebook and Instagram pages where it is transparent about business values and details how it seeks to change the restaurant industry to create a working environment sustainable and inclusive. The restaurant’s online ordering system is streamlined and simple, making it easy to order paffles from your phone and on the go.
I chose to order my first paffle online for in-store pickup. I was greeted with a smile as I walked in and my order was already waiting for me at the pickup counter. My first order was the Nutella paffle with banana slices, which I customized by adding peanut butter. Served warm with a light dusting of powdered sugar, it was divine.
The paffle definitely provides texture and allows the filling flavors to show through. The croissant breakfast sandwiches are the closest concept to a paffle I’ve experienced before, but the flimsy croissant just can’t compare to a flaky, buttery flaky waffle.
While the sweet paffle filling options are certainly delicious – caramel cannoli being my favorite – savory paffle sandwiches are the way to go. The Egg, Cheddar, Bacon and Sriracha Mayonnaise Paffle is a great hearty brunch option. The texture of the soft and juicy baked egg contrasts beautifully with the crispy paffle, making for an interesting and unique dining experience.
In addition to the delicious food, I also appreciated the simple and streamlined ordering process. Customers use a self-serve tablet and the paffles are then served hot in an adorable and functional paper wrapper that makes them easy to hold and devour. This well thought-out packaging makes it easy to eat on the go.
A recyclable cardboard box envelops the paffle and helps control the inevitable puff pastry crumble. Befitting the industrial theme of the restaurant, a cogwheel design sits on the semi-circular folds of the container that each paffle enters – which generates continuity and adds to the unique ambience of the restaurant.
For additional accommodation, Iron Paffles also offers online ordering for pickup and delivery as well as catering with classic savory, breakfast, lunch and dessert dishes to choose from and a variety of customization options. However, the paffle isn’t the restaurant’s only claim to fame — the restaurant also serves coffee, tea, kombucha, craft beer, and other beverages. Iron Paffles offers limited seasonal and weekly specials like its Pumpkin Spice Latte and Pickle Spice Drinks. With T-shirts and stickers – and even their own coffee blend – this wonderful restaurant has a lot to offer.
Iron Paffles is open Wednesday-Sunday 7am-3pm and accepts their last orders at 2:45pm. Although a bit far from Grounds, Iron Paffles is well worth the trip and I highly recommend checking it out – the paffle can very well become your new favorite brunch.