Japanese-style waffle shop Wafu set to open in Orlando. Here’s when, where to find it

Restaurant serves taiyaki, soft-serve ice cream

Zachary Allam and Benjamin Paniagua plan to turn their food cart Wafu into a brick-and-mortar business (Wafu)

ORLANDO, Fla. – East End Market’s newest tenant is getting ready to hold its grand opening Wednesday, serving up Japanese-style waffles and soft-serve ice cream to hungry customers.

Wafu is opening at 11 a.m. Wednesday on the second floor of the food hall and retail space in Orlando’s Audobon Park neighborhood, according to the business’s Facebook page.


Benjamin Paniagua and Zachary Allam started the business as a pop-up and food truck in the Lakeland area. The couple is now taking over the spot once occupied by Dochi, which sells Japanese-style mochi donuts.

The pair had originally planned on opening in May after taking over the lease on April 1 but appears to have been delayed.

Wafu serves taiyaki, a sweetened, Japanese cake prepared very similarly to a waffle. Wafu actually roughly translates to “Japanese-style.”

It is shaped like a fish — a sea bream specifically — and usually filled with azuki bean paste, custard or chocolate, though there are also savory versions.

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“It started where wealthy individuals in Japan at the time would eat this fish (sea bream) and on the streets (vendors) were already making something similar to taiyaki where it had a waffle or pancake outside with a filling,” Paniagua said. “Someone came up with the idea — almost like a marketing strategy — of making it look like this fish — that means good fortune and that wealthy people would eat — and it took off in popularity over 100 years ago. It’s almost on every single block in Japan. It’s a staple.”

As part of the grand opening, Wafu will also be offering a limited cherry blossom soft-serve ice cream for a limited time, according to social media.

Wafu will be closed on Tuesdays. It will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, it will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.