Over the years, Carleton College professor of religion Louis Newman has noticed an interesting pattern among his students—they don’t seem to sleep. They also like to eat. So, he began thinking about ways to satisfy the late-night cravings of what he assumed to be an even larger semi-nocturnal community of college students and area residents. Today, Newman’s vision became a reality with the opening of Sweet Lou's Waffle Bar at 303 Division Street in downtown Northfield.
The basic concept behind Sweet Lou’s is fairly simple—waffles any time. The menu offers three types of waffles: traditional waffles with toppings like fruit and Nutella, savory waffles with toppings ranging from salsa to sour cream to hummus, and desert waffles complete with ice cream and other sweets. Not in the mood for a waffle? Then how about biscotti, muffins, and other baked goods from Minneapolis’ renowned French Meadow Bakery. The coffee, sold under a Sweet Lou's label, will also come from the Twin Cities. And true to Newman's original conception of the business, the waffles and everything else are available 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.
Northfield residents will most likely recall that Sweet Lou's is located in the site of the former Spirit Garden Too, a tattoo and body piercing business. Yet, check out the space today and it’s hard to imagine it was ever anything other than a coffee house. Square tables of varying heights dominate the space, along with an enclosed counter area filled with metallic espresso equipment. (According to Newman, the square tables, along with square plates and enormous square flooring tiles, are a conscious effort to match the geometry of the house specialty.) To the right of the entrance is a smaller "lounge," filled with couches and soft armchairs. The couches, along with complimentary wireless internet, are intended to make the waffle bar a comfortable place to work. They also hope to display the work of visiting artists on the walls.
Starting a restaurant is as difficult as it is unusual for a full-time academic. By day, Newman is the John M. and Elizabeth W. Musser Professor of Religious Studies and Director of Judaic Studies at Carleton College (in other words, he’s a specialist in Jewish ethics and contemporary Jewish life). Before Sweet Lou's could become a reality, Newman had to wait for a vacancy on Northfield's pedestrian drag (he has always insisted that the business be located on Division Street), and then faced the mega challenge of remodeling a tattoo parlor into a waffle bar.
Although getting the business up and running has been a demanding project, Newman's students need not worry about losing their top-notch professor: Rick Davis and Dawn Holcomb, an experienced restaurant management team, will be managing the day-to-day operatons of the waffle bar. A Twin Cities resident who commutes to Carleton, Newman expects he will drop in periodically.
"I plan to stop every morning on my way into town and pick up a cup of coffee—which I'll buy,” he adds. “I will look forward to hanging out there, seeing students and colleagues—and people from around town. It will be a place where I can read the New York Times and enjoy a cup of coffee."
For more information about Sweet Lou’s Waffle Bar, including a complete menu, visit http://sweetlouswaffles.com.