The late entertainer Jimmy Durante once said… “Everybody wants to get into the act!”
And indeed… EVERYBODY is into the act these days… I’m talking about Chicken & Waffles.
A combination that was likely birthed at Wells Soul Food Restaurant in Harlem over 75 years ago, Chicken & Waffles achieved widespread notoriety – more than that, a cult following – at ROSCOE’S CHICKEN & WAFFLES in Southern California in the ‘70s.
Today it’s found all over the United States. And why not? No other dish better unites sweet and salty, soft and crunchy like this. It’s perfect for breakfast, and even better after the bars close.
Beware: Southerners bridle at any notion that Chicken and Waffles originated in the South. They say it’s a Yankee-fied creation, a desecration of fried chicken, the dish perfected by everyone’s Mama. And when you talk about somebody’s Mama… somebody gets mad.
Before the dish went rogue throughout America, I stumbled across the now iconic Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles in Pasadena, California sometime around 2002 (see photo; at that time, I was Phil-and-a-half). President Obama got around to discovering it 6 to 8 years later. He ordered # 9 – the “COUNTRY BOY” – which included three chicken wings, potato salad and a waffle for $ 8.80. I don’t remember what I ordered. Probably two of everything. I was “building Phil.”
Roscoe’s is strictly old school soul food, posting a Zagat rating of 24! The chicken is tender, succulent, crispy and crunchy (probably deep fried in lard). And the waffles? Light, fluffy, buttery. There’s plenty of other good stuff, too – from greens, red beans and rice with gravy, to grits and hot-water cornbread. A complete meal here will hover around $20 per person.
Roscoe’s might do chicken and waffles better than anyone else, but you can get the dish all over the place today. Every first, second and third-tier city in the United States now has 10…15…20 restaurants serving chicken and waffles. Here in the Twin Cities alone, more than 15 restaurants serve it – among them Smack Shack, Lake and Irving, French Meadow and Haute Dish. And, full disclosure, we do a fantastic chicken and waffles for brunch on Saturday and Sunday at Libertine in Uptown.
Do the math…and then add in the national chains that are serving the dish… IHOP (1650 locations)… WAFFLE HOUSE (1700 locations)… and DENNY’S (3351 locations). One easily gets to tens of thousands of restaurants that have jumped on the CHICKEN and WAFFLES bandwagon.
So is that a good thing or a bad thing…? I don’t know… It’s a bit sad that these special little local nuggets no longer exist all by themselves. For me, it was always a reward to make the trip to the only neighborhoods where you could indulge. But then again, chicken and waffles is really, really good. So it’s nice to be able to get it just down the street. Oh, by the way, Denny’s doesn’t take reservations.
Just for fun, check out the u-tube faux commercial for ROSCOE’S from the film TAPEHEADS…
Do it!… NO… DO IT!
And now a cautionary note: Roscoe’s filed for bankruptcy on March 25 of this year. I don’t know why, but rumor has it that regular Roscoe’s customer Snoop Dogg is buying it. In the meantime, Roscoe’s remains open.