When waffle kingpin Adam Gold heard that the former Water Street Music Hall was available, he got on the blower with a quickness. Roughly seven months later and Funk 'N Waffles — Gold's eclectic venue featuring live music and a kitchen serving up a large selection of sweet and savory waffles — was here. But this wasn't Gold's first rodeo. He has another location at Armory Square in Syracuse.
Syracuse; where it all began.
Gold and his neighbor and best friend, Kyle Corea, were attending Syracuse University, where Gold was studying to get his undergraduate degree in film. In 2006, their junior year, Gold and Corea started a little business.
"We started throwing house parties," Gold says. "And my band, Sweaty Pants, would perform. We'd come up with concoctions and Kyle would make waffles during the performance. They were eating to the beat and there was this funky waffle-y smell coming around. It was pretty exciting.
"Soon, we were doing it every weekend. Eventually we entered a business plan competition our senior year. Even though we were studying film, we had this business plan, and we did really well in the competition. We were like, 'We should try it.'"
So they decided to stick around Syracuse and open up Funk 'N Waffles' first location in the Marshall Street neighborhood, near Syracuse University, to host "music and crazy waffles." That was 10 and a half years ago.
Funk 'N Waffles opened its second location, the one in Armory Square, in 2014. And the original location near the university just closed last February, right as the business announced it would expand to Rochester.
Gold has lofty plans with music and crazy waffles for the new location at 204 North Water Street: music every night emanating from one of two smaller stages on the restaurant side, and five to 10 bigger shows per month on the Music Hall side. A few concerts have happened since late May, but things have been building to a big show on Friday, June 9, with George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Sophistafunk, Root Shock, and Subsoil.
Since the word of Funk 'N Waffles coming to town hit the street, Gold says his talent booker's phone has been blowing up. Shows with Rebirth Brass Band (happening Thursday, June 8), the Honey Smugglers, Primate Fiasco, and Aaron Lipp and the Slack Tones are on the club's schedule.
But Gold still emphasizes the importance of the food.
"If we're open, we're serving food," he says. This bodes well for musicians getting off a gig or for insomniacs, especially with Nick Tahou relinquishing its late-night hours. Some of the food Funk 'N Waffles has on the menu has reached cult status. The restaurant's chicken and waffles and its Jive Turkey — essentially Gold's translation of a Thanksgiving meal —were featured on the show "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives."
"It's great for a late-night crowd," Gold says. "I know I used to head to Mark's Texas Hots after I finished a show here to get a chocolate milk and garbage plate." And Gold has inadvertently tested the Rochester waters: Gold brought waffles to Rochester in the early-aughts when a then-up-and-coming Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad played its weekly residency at Water Street Music Hall.
"We brought our own waffle irons and batter and made waffles on site," he says. "I never dreamed we could do something like this. I'm really proud of what we've built. I'm really excited to be in Rochester."