Whether it's cabin fever or gift returns that take you to Westfield Montgomery Mall, you’ll notice two new eateries emanating robust smells—Janetta’s and Doc Popcorn. Janetta is a belgian waffle stand in the lower level near Old Navy, and Doc Popcorn is on the upper level, across from the central elevators.
Doc Popcorn is a franchise from a national chain of popcorn stands -- the first in the area, Patch recently reported -- while Janetta is a prototype created by local entrepreneur. While making your purchase at either of these two stands, you’re likely to experience a commitment to service and general friendliness that reflects the personalities of two hardworking owners.
Through years of experimentation, Janetta owner Sharon Khen created the recipe for her Belgian waffles, which are soft and delicate on the inside and lightly crisp on the outside. Janetta also serves hot chocolate and Lavazza coffee.
Janetta products have a distinctly European flair, which Khen intended.
“The whole experience is intended to reflect European scenery. I really want people to feel they’ve visited Europe for ten minutes; that’s my vision," Khen said. "They can drink their Italian espresso standing up, leaning against a decorative sneeze guard. That’s how it is in Europe.”
According to Khen, waffles are not considered breakfast in Europe, but a snack. That’s why Khen selected the mall environment. “In the mall you don’t know what time of day it is. There are no seasons inside,” says Khen. “Belgian waffles are not perceived as a breakfast, although an American waffle is breakfast. Belgian waffles are more like a snack or dessert; the equivalent to an American hot dog.”
Khen is originally from Israel, though her family has roots in Europe. She traveled frequently to European cities and missed eating the Belgian waffles sold at stands in Europe and Jerusalem.
“What makes our Belgian waffle unique is we use Brussels yeast. That makes the batter crunchy on the outside, and airy, light and soft on the inside," Khen said. "Our Belgian waffles have a darker color, because one ingredient we use is cinnamon and a special type of vanilla that makes the browner color."
“We have many toppings to go over the waffle, including fresh strawberries, blueberries, mango, pineapple, coconut, glazed orange peel and halva,” Khen cotinued.
Slightly familiar with halva, Khen taught me more about this Middle Eastern staple: “Halva is made out of sesame, though it’s sweet and very healthy; full of iron and calcium. People in Israel give it to babies to mix it in baby food. Halva is almost like a candy bar, in fact they sell it in candy bar sizes. People eat it instead of a chocolate bar; it’s really good and very healthy.”
Besides fresh fruit, halva and whipped cream for the waffles, Janetta has three chocolate fountains operating at all times. Customers choose from dark, milk and white chocolates--which Janetta servers drizzled over the hot waffle.
Adds Khen, “The three choices are imported, top quality Belgian chocolates. They run smooth in our fountains all day at a certain temperature to keep their form.”
When customers order a waffle, they may select from several types or create their own combination, or “Muse,” as Khen calls it.
Janetta also makes hot chocolate from these fountains, with the option to mix two types, or customers may opt for the Italian espresso as an accompaniment. Hearing this, I asked why Khen did not open a cafe. She explained, “In terms of business model, since we just started, we thought it would be a good opportunity to get exposure in a mall. It’s hard to compete with chain cafes and restaurants; we need to make ourselves present. So that’s why we chose a high end mall with lots of traffic.”
The timing was excellent, because during the holiday season, many people discovered Janetta for the first time. So far I’ve heard only positive reviews, especially by those who’ve sampled authentic Belgian waffles overseas.
Honestly, there's no comparison to the American hot dog--Janetta Belgian waffles are light years better than any hot dog served from a food truck or mall. The waffles are fresh, mouthwatering, and addictive. Intending only to eat a few bites, I barely made it home before I devoured the entire waffle in the car.
So, next visit to Westfield Montgomery Mall, follow your nose to the smell of vanilla and cinnamon, and consider sampling this gourmet snack.
Similarly, Doc Popcorn timed their opening around the holiday shoppers, and the fragrance of their popcorn—well, I can’t think of another aroma that beckons like this fresh-popped treat. This franchise offers a variety of flavored popcorn in three categories—savory, sweet and spicy. The larger size at $4.50 is only cents more than the small for $4, but the popcorn is heavily coated—heavy being the operative word. So, it’s best to share a bag.
One notable feature--the popcorn is wheat and gluten free. Some have dairy and soy, but not all.
Doc Popcorn sells drinks too, which are necessary when you order the salty or cheesy versions. I tried the Sinfully Cinnamon which was lighter, but I learned it was also the least popular choice among customers. One of their top sellers is the Triple White Cheddar, which initially is stunning, but the popcorn is covered with a thick layer of white cheese and butter-too greasy for my taste.
I hope to try other flavors more to my liking—they didn’t have the jalapeno, which I’m confident will be my favorite. But hopefully Patch readers will weigh on their experiences with Doc Popcorn.
So next time you’re shopping, check out these two new stands that extend an already wide selection of offerings at Westfield Montgomery.
Have you tried Janetta or Doc Popcorn? What did you think? Tell us in the comments.