Chicken and Waffles: King of Kings (Bailey Ford)

While there has been some controversy about this, I have found several sources that say that Chicken and Waffles is, in fact, a Southern dish (and it’s also my personal favorite). While some say the dish first emerged in Harlem in the 30s, and others say it was first concocted by the Pennsylvania Dutch in the 1600s, Nicole Taylor found evidence that it first came about when African slaves on Southern plantations created golden egg waffles, added blackberry preserve, and fried up some chicken to pull the dish together. Personally, I normally prefer syrup to preservatives, but that sounds pretty phenomenal for a first attempt.

Before I started researching the conflicting theories on its origins, I had always just assumed it was a Southern dish. Fried chicken is inherently Southern, and I guess I have always felt that Waffle House is part of what makes South Carolina the place it is to me. This made waffles feel intrinsically Southern to me too, especially when you consider some of the variations we have, such as pecan waffles (another favorite of mine). All my favorite breakfast/brunch dishes have always been Southern, whether it be shrimp and grits or Montreux’s (a restaurant in downtown Summerville) pork and pancakes, which is literally just pulled bork on top of a monster pancake. But, at the end of the day, chicken and waffles is king for me.

Something about the combination of the fluffiness of the waffle and the crispiness of the chicken all pulled together by the sweetness of maple syrup creates a unique experience that just feels like an example of the ingenuity of Southern cooking. It seems normal to us now, but at the time they were throwing a bird breast on top of baked flour and just seeing what happened. I, for one, am very glad they did.

I would be remiss if I ended this article if I ended this piece without mentioning my personal favorite chicken and waffles experience. Well, technically this was chicken and sweet potato pancakes, but the connection is there. This summer, I went on a trip with a couple of friends to Asheville (one of them has a mountain house near there, rich friends are a hell of a thing), and we made brunch reservations at a place I’d been to with my family called Tupelo Honey. All three of us got the same dish: the Shoo Mercy Griddle. We were delivered stacks of sweet potato pancakes, topped with the restaurant’s signature honey dusted fried chicken, apple cider bacon, pecans, powdered sugar, and fried eggs. While chicken and waffles is the king of brunch for me, the Shoo Mercy Griddle is the king of kings.

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