After a hiking trip to Colorado, Brandon and Aimee Harper stumbled upon an unlikely obsession and were determined to bring it to central Ohio.

The Harpers are the owners of Belgian Iron Wafel Company in the old Eleni-Christina Bakery, 19 W. Russell St. in Columbus' Short North.

"It was an awesome idea that needed to be brought to Columbus," Brandon Harper said.

"Columbus deserves it," Aimee Harper said.

The Liege-style waffles are built from the bottom up, starting with a homemade dough recipe that uses sugar pearls to give a burst of sweetness and crunch to the outside, while the inside is aerated and fluffy.

Aimee Harper consulted with an endocrinologist on a vegan, gluten-free waffle that uses assorted flours and macadamia-nut butter.

The couple even hired a bona fide chef, Tom Brown, who trained at Johnson & Wales University and has worked in the food industry for 25 years.

The waffles come in both savory and sweet options, costing $4 to $12.

One of the sweet signature options is the carrot cake, with a walnut, apple and raisin relish, maple-carrot cream cheese and spiral-cut carrots on top.

A savory choice is the bourbon barbecue-pork duo, offering thick-sliced bacon, pulled smoked pork, maple-bourbon barbecue sauce, green onions and a ramekin of cheddar cheese.

There's even a flight of waffles: three tasting sizes for $15.

"We didn't want to open something run of the mill, something that has been done before," Aimee Harper said.

The Harpers consider the Belgian waffle the ultimate street food, wrapped in paper and easy to eat.

The restaurant has seating for about 40, with an open kitchen on the main floor and a prep kitchen in the basement.

The interior has wooden floors, exposed brick, white tile and large picture windows, a traditional design by Short North standards.

"We tried to keep the original look of the building," Brandon Harper said.

The eatery has two new imported Belgian irons, weighing about 100 pounds each, that can turn out 12 waffles every three minutes.

"Our goal is to serve them fresh and hot right off the line," Brandon Harper said, adding that a third iron is used exclusively for the gluten-free waffles.

Locally based Mission Coffee Co. provides all of the roasted beans for the various java products served at the restaurant.

Tea, sparkling water and sparkling juice also are available.

The restaurant is open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, and it is closed Mondays. The space is available after hours for private functions, the Harpers said.

For more information, call 614-947-7704.

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Beer Barrel Pizza & Grill is expected to open by early summer in the Dublin Green Shopping Center in Jerome Township, just off state Route 161.

The restaurant will occupy a 10,400-square-foot end unit with a 350-seat dining room.

The latest Beer Barrel is the third in central Ohio for the family-owned, Lima-based Good Food Restaurants, which has eight Beer Barrel locations throughout Ohio.

Beer Barrel is known for its made-from-scratch dough, including a thin-and-crispy style, deep dish and original crust, plus an assortment of sandwiches, salads, starters and other tavern fare.

The most recent Beer Barrel opened Dec. 4 in Easton Market in Columbus.

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Pokeworks, the latest venue offering build-your-own Hawaiian poke bowls, has opened at 1011 W. Fifth Ave. in Columbus.

Local franchisee is Aaron Fu, a Columbus resident since 2004 and brother-in-law of Pokeworks co-founder Kevin Hsu.

Bowls aren't the only thing at the restaurant, as customers also can customize burritos, salads and kale noodle bowls at the restaurant.

Regular portions are $10.95 and large sizes are $13.50.

Pokeworks is part of an Irvine, California, company with 32 units across the United States.

Fu said he plans to open four additional units across central Ohio.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary