For some reason, I keep thinking chicken and waffles should be my favorite breakfast choice.
Fried chicken for breakfast. How can that not be great? It’s right up there on the food pyramid with bacon and, unlike bacon, I can eat it in front of my rabbi. Likewise for waffles, the breakfast food so delicious they named an entire restaurant chain after them. Put them together and you have a surefire winner.
Except, you don’t. My odyssey has been going on for about two years now and I have yet to find a place that serves chicken and waffles to die for, or even to get seriously injured.
The best fried chicken is moist inside, crisp outside, with breading that is almost a second skin. Great waffles have endless pockets of crust surrounding an inner body of chewy dough. There’s give and take, push and pull, crunch and gush, an ideal combination. Yes, there is an art to this, but it’s not like fried chicken and waffles are new inventions without 5 zillion how-to videos on YouTube.
You can find thousands of restaurants where they know how to make fried chicken and thousands more with great waffles. Doing both at the same time should not be close to impossible, and yet it is.
Part of the challenge, of course, is that both waffles and fried chicken are more complicated than their homespun legends would suggest. Making fried chicken with crispy skin and not too much breading, with meat that’s still moist and not overcooked…that’s a major challenge for everyone. Creating waffles that are almost crunchy without being a dry pile of crust is likewise a feat.
Even restaurants that get these basics right will find a way to screw it up, though. Some cooks think it’s a great idea to throw a couple of burnt chicken wings on a waffle, because nobody really wanted any edible “chicken,” while others deliver a thigh that’s still dripping with fat that ruins the waffle’s structure.
Some restaurants put no seasoning at all on the chicken, or come up with bizarre combinations like sriracha syrup with blueberry compote and ramp. A few places have decided corn is the absolute best flavor for a waffle, such as the restaurant that proudly served me a chewy concoction slathered in corn flakes and an ungodly agglomeration of spices I have never experienced before on Planet Earth.
Over the past two years, I’ve ordered chicken and waffles about 40 times at roughly 30 restaurants. This search has morphed from a fun excursion to a death march, as I slog through one disappointment after another. I feel like Prince Charming, doomed to touch every smelly foot in the kingdom in hopes of finding my true love.
After all this time, I’m in too deeply to call it quits. The search continues and it will not end until I find the chicken and waffles that are every bit as wonderful as I had believed them to be when the journey began.
Clearly, this is a noble quest.
Just as clearly, I have way too much time on my hands.
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Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.