Is it the chicken or the waffle—or the
toothsome combination—that makes
this concept a hit?
BY KATHRYN KJARSGAARD
hicken and waffles is a classic American comfort
food that has made its way into venues from upscale
to down-home. It has such a strong following that it
even carries multiple chicken-and-waffles restaurant
concepts across the country.
The dish has strong Southern roots, but there is evidence
of a version of chicken and waffles from the Pennsylvania
Dutch. It rose to popularity as late-night soul food for jazz
aficionados in the 1940s and 1950s in New York.
that sounds weird but tastes good. It’s addictive with the
salty and sweet flavors.”
Michele Wilson, executive chef/owner of Gussie’s Chicken
and Waffles in San Francisco, says the sweet/salty
combination of chicken and waffles is what wins people over.
“It’s like kettle corn, sweet and salty and also satisfying and
filling. You can eat it for brunch and not feel like you missed
out on either breakfast or lunch. It may start off as a novelty,
but once you try it, it becomes something you crave.”
Chicken and waffles made such an impression 25 years ago
on a young Rob Perez, owner of Saul Good Restaurant & Pub
in Lexington, Ky., that he vowed to someday own a restaurant
that served the dish. “The first time I had chicken and waffles
at Roscoe’s in Los Angeles, it was instant. I knew I wanted to
serve this dish someday.
“It’s a sincerely good plate of food that is rich, savory and
has crunch. It sounds like a novelty, but it’s that juxtaposition
Wilson notes that the dish is now popping up on high-end
and other restaurant menus. “The InterContinental San
Francisco has it on its Southern brunch, and even iHop has a
version on its menu now.”
Michael Holleman, director of culinary development for
Indian Harvest in Bemidji, Minn., says chicken and waffles has
surged in popularity over the years. “It’s one of those things that
started off as a trend but seems to be a mainstay now.