Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 7:07 a.m.
Just a few weeks back, we published a list that named "haute" chicken and waffles as one of the 13 most overcooked food trends of 2013
. To clarify (and to pre-emptively combat any cries of hypocrisy that this Top 5 might provoke), that food trends list was compiled by writers from our team as well as our sister papers like L.A. Weekly
, Riverfront Times
(though that particular writer is a CP alum
), and the Dallas Observer,
which might help explain why ramen burgers and cronuts, two items that barely made an impact on our local scene, were included in the article.
So while some feel there's an oversaturation of this particular dish in the rest of the country, and maybe even here in the Twin Cities too, we just can't help but be attracted to the sweet and savory flavor combination and textural contrast between crispy chicken and soft, springy waffles. Here are our Top 5 favorite takes on this soul food classic, from the straightforward to the sinful to the truly sublime.
This classic interpretation recently took the no. 85 spot on our list of 100 Favorite Dishes
of the year, and we're revisiting it here with good reason. The key to this dish's success is the pressure-cooker fried chicken that achieves a thick layer of crispy golden brown crust but still maintains an ultra-juicy interior with lots of flavor. Daily Diner does not skimp on the portion size and we appreciate that, but we love the little hit of cinnamon they put in the maple syrup even more.
Courtesy Bulldog NE Facebook page
The version pictured is a bite-sized, skewered-on-a-stick chicken and waffle that the NE bar and restaurant made especially for Fair-goers. But the regular dish -- long a staple of their lunch and dinner menu -- includes a drummy, thigh, and breast of Southern-style fried chicken atop two (yes, two) sourdough waffles. The slight tang of the waffle batter adds a layer of complexity and the thyme-infused bacon maple syrup is a thing of smoky, balanced beauty. The Bulldog's kitchen staff will even make your chicken breading and waffle batter with gluten-free ingredients for a small upcharge.
What impressed us so much about this dish, served at brunch only, is how light it seemed despite its obviously high calorie count. The chicken in Lake & Irving's version is boneless, pounded out into a uniform paillard, and battered with some magical mix that yields an airy, flaky texture. They sandwich this together with just a half waffle (fine because the chicken is so fabulous) and scatter the tower with chives and chopped crispy bacon. If you like the sticky sweet stuff you can opt for Log Cabin syrup on the side, but we highly recommend getting the seasonal beer syrup. The pitcher pictured above was made, most appropriately, with Founder's breakfast stout.
Photo courtesy Wings N' Things Facebook page
As the name suggests, this North Minneapolis fast food spot specializes in wings, so that's what they put on top of their (slightly spicy) chicken and waffles. There's something about the extra small cells in the waffle iron they use that makes for an extra absorbent base, soaking up all the butter and syrup but still retaining some of its pre-dressing crispiness. There's not a lot of ambience to speak of, but it hardly matters. You'll be lost in fried deliciousness and soon after, lulled into a most righteous food coma.
1. Haute Dish
- 119 Washington Ave. N., Minneapolis
Purists may disagree with our no.1 pick, thinking it too fancy for such humble fare, but even the most strictly Southern eater will be won over by the first bite of chef Landon Schoenefeld's indulgent interpretation of chicken and waffles. The sourdough waffle is so light and melty, but substantial at the same time. The buttermilk fried chicken is crunchy, not greasy, and seasoned in such a way that it doesn't overpower, but still comes through even after you drizzle it with maple-bacon syrup. The scoop of maple bacon ice cream that's served on the side of the yeasty waffle is what makes this one dish suitable for breakfast, dessert, and every meal in between.
Honorable mention: Mona Restaurant & Bar
's fruit-forward small plate take includes a gritty cornmeal waffle, roasted pears, and blackberry syrup.