ninas-waffles-0831111The latest addition to Red Bank’s bustling food scene: Nina’s Waffles & Sweets on White Street. (Click to enlarge)

retail churn smallBy JOHN T. WARD

Louis Zanias was born in Greece but grew up in Brussels, Belgium, where waffle carts are as plentiful as hot dog carts in New Jersey.

He emigrated to America 37 years ago, at the age of 20, and became a well-regarded restaurateur in New Hope, Pennsylvania, where he owns Karla’s and co-owns Zoubi.

But for the past year and a half or so, Zanias (pronounced ZAHN-yahs) has been pursuing a second dream, creating a small string of waffle shops redolent of hot dough and melted sugar.

“It’s something that was in the back of my mind for a long, long time,” he tells redbankgreen in a phoner.

Zanias plans to open the third Nina’s, named after his daughter, next month at 15 White Street in Red Bank, in a space recently vacated by Filakia Children’s Boutique.

It’s flanked by Dish, A Restaurant and the Red Bank Chocolate Shoppe, thus creating what may be the most mouth-watering triumverate of adjoining businesses in town.

The first two Nina’s are in Seaside Park and Stockton.

Why Red Bank?

Zanias tells us a friend approached him about creating another Nina’s in the Long Branch area. But his travels drew him to Red Bank, and he was smitten.

“I really liked the town, and I really liked the feel,” he said. “I said, ‘I’m doing it here.'”

Nina’s features Liège waffles, which are made with dough rather than batter. The key to their popularity, said Zanias, is the pearl sugar, which caramelizes when heated in the waffle iron. Customers can eat them plain or have them dressed in chocolate, fruit, peanut butter, nutella and a number of other toppings. The store will also sell coffee and other beverages.

The 700-square-foot space is actually a little larger than he needs, Zanias said, but it’s still too small for tables. So customers will have to take their treats outside.

Zanias hopes to open by mid-October.