It’s always fun to watch the rise of food trends. Right now, on one end of the spectrum we have kale, that dark, leafy green that everyone has gone gaga for over the past year or so. Its popularity seems to be lasting as long as the cupcake. On the other end, we have a trend that is just starting to pop up in the suburbs: chicken and waffles.
Yes, believe it or not, they are served together. I first heard about this combination years ago and was immediately fascinated. How are they served? Is the chicken pulled or in pieces? Is the waffle sweet or savory? And exactly how do you eat it?
I did some cursory research on the combination. Often people think the dish is traditionally Southern, but others deny that. Here’s what Tory Avey of The History Kitchen had to say:
“The earliest American chicken and waffle combination appears in Pennsylvania Dutch country during the 1600’s, when home cooks made waffles and topped them with pulled chicken and gravy. A different, decidedly soul food-inspired approach to the pairing worked its way into popular culture much later with the opening of Wells Supper Club in Harlem, New York. The restaurant, known simply as “Wells” to regulars, opened in 1938. Wells became a late night hotspot for jazz musicians, who would stop by late at night after their various gigs. The musicians, arriving too late for dinner but too early for breakfast, enjoyed the appetizing compromise of fried chicken and waffles.”
Whatever the case, chicken and waffles is now the “it” dish, and here’s how it works. A waffle– yes, a regular, fluffy waffle, sometimes jazzed up with different ingredients, is served with pieces of fried chicken (most often on the bone, but sometimes boneless) on top. On the side– maple syrup, of course.
I was thrilled when I recently went to Mama’s Boy in South Norwalk (19 North Water Street, South Norwalk; 203-956-7171) and saw they had their own version on the menu. Called “The Little Yardbird,” the dish consisted of marinated country-fried game hen on top of a cornbread waffle, served with collard greens, maple syrup and habanero jelly. Let me tell you, this is an entrée to get excited about. Why? Because it has so many flavor and texture combinations going on. The chicken is crunchy and juicy, the waffle fluffy and sweet, the greens are bitter and the syrup and jelly bring sweetness and heat. I savored every morsel, figuring it would be a long time before I had it again.
Surprise! The next stop was Bodega in Fairfield (1700 Post Road, Fairfield; (203) 292-9590), where they now have Chicken and Waffle Tacos. Picture it: two waffle quarters stuffed with boneless fried chicken, corn salsita and chipotle honey. Sweet, spicy and crispy.
Now, I see it popping up on menus throughout Fairfield County. The newly opened Little Goose (397 Commerce Drive, Fairfield; 203-296-9789) has fried chicken with cheddar Tabasco waffles, vanilla butter and maple au jus.
Center Street Social in Shelton (127 Center Street, Shelton;203-513-8005); has a sandwich composed of buttermilk fried chicken between two cheddar waffles, served with maple bourbon butter and spicy slaw.
If you find you really love the taste of chicken & waffles, there’s good news. Lay’s Potato Chips released a special Chicken & Waffle flavor chip earlier this year.