Chicken and waffles is undoubtedly an unusual combination, and it’s one of the most popular culinary treats today. This fusion of perfectly seasoned chicken with crispy skin, fluffy, light Belgian waffles coated in salty melted butter, and finished with a drizzle of sweet, warm maple syrup is irresistible. It’s commonly held that the trend for chicken and waffles began in the 1930s when Well’s restaurant in New York’s Harlem served their signature dish to stars and celebrities who adored this eat anytime dish. However, chicken and waffles originated long before the 20th century and the history of the dish is almost as interesting as its unique and fabulous flavor.
Chicken and waffles – the wonder years
Although it’s difficult to pinpoint the precise origins of the dish, many people believe that Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of a French waffle iron in the 1790s was responsible for starting the craze for waffles in the US. Pilgrims brought a basic form of waffles to what was then New Amsterdam when they emigrated via Holland in the 1600s. Yet others are of a mind that the dish was brought to the northern states after the Civil War when African Americans migrated from the south, bringing their delicious soul food style chicken which they served with waffles. It seems likely that the dish has been around in some form for several centuries, and in Pennsylvania and the north-eastern states a variation of chicken and waffles made with pulled chicken and gravy is still common today.
Evolution – how the delicious dish we know came into being
Soul food style fried chicken combined with light, crisp, sweet Belgian Waffles is the recipe that is predominant today, and the one served in restaurants such as Roscoes and Gladys & Ron’s. Fried chicken recipes could certainly be found in the US by the 17th century, and first lady Martha Washington had a couple in her collection. The pairing of chicken with waffles was timely, and this great dish continued to evolve as more and more people came under its delicious spell. By the 1930s chicken and waffles were served in Harlem restaurants like Wells Supper Club, where stars like Gladys Knight came to dine on their favorite treat.
A dish with star quality
Gladys Knight loved the dish that she ate at Wells Supper Club so much that she was inspired to open her restaurant, Gladys and Ron’s Chicken and Waffles Concept. The demand for delicate Belgian waffles with chicken looks set to continue, and new forms of the dish are being created all the time. For instance, at Melba’s Restaurant in New York’s Harlem, you can try buttermilk fried chicken on eggnog waffles with strawberry butter. It may sound like a crazy combination, but Melba’s unique recipe beat a top chef in a famous TV challenge. Chicken with Belgian waffles is a taste explosion that is hard to beat, and it’s a satisfying alternative to traditional meals that can be enjoyed at any time of the day.