Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Gladys Knight and Ron Winans' Chicken and Waffles

When I was sent to Atlanta, Georgia, for a business trip a few months ago, I was excited at the prospect of trying soul food for the first time there. Rian, a friend of mine, recommended Glady's Knight and Ron Winans' Chicken and Waffles. Cardin, my colleague in Atlanta, also agreed that it was the place for soul food. So he took me one night after work, and helped me order a few traditional soul food dishes. Well thanks to him, many of my U.S colleagues now know me as "The Girl Who Can Eat A Lot".  

Anyway, although I now know of several places in Toronto where chicken and waffles are served (i.e. The Waffle Works, The Harlem Underground, The Stockyards) I'm glad I tried the infamous chicken and waffles dish in Atlanta first, a city with the reputation of still offering renowned traditional soul food. If you Google "soul food Atlanta", the search will come up with more than 800,000 websites. This one particular website,, lists around 95 soul food restaurants in the state of Georgia, where most are located in Atlanta.

As for those who don't know who Gladys Knight is, she is an R&B / soul singer-songwriter, best known for her hits with Motown with her group "Gladys Knight and the Pips". 

Gladys Knight, also known as the "Empress of Soul"

Can't get more soulful than her! As for Ron Winans, I had no idea who he was. I googled him and found out he was a gospel singer who found fame as a member of "The Winans". 

To tell you the truth, before going to Atlanta, I didn't know that fried chicken and waffles can legitimately exist on the same plate. To me, waffles is a breakfast food, served with butter and syrup. Period. But to add fried chicken on the side? How does that work? My head just could not comprehend this concept.

So as I said, my colleague helped me order at Glady's. My only request to him was that he order authentic, legit soul food for me on the menu - no "new world", no "fusion", or "new and improved" dishes. I wanted the REAL DEAL. I assured him that I am not picky and will eat ANYTHING. So these are the things we shared:

 Midnight Train: four southern fried jumbo chicken wings and one
original waffle. The fried chicken was delicious! The skin was so
crispy, and the meat was so tender and juicy.

Fish & Grits: Catfish tenders fried to a golden brown served with 
grits and cinnamon raisin toast with Georgia peach butter. I wasn't too
crazy about the grits. The catfish was really tasty though.

Collard Greens: Slow cooked and seasoned with smoked turkey wings
Macaroni & Cheese

I had 2 chicken wings, the whole waffle, half of the the fried catfish, and all the cinnamon raisin toast (I love bread), and some of the sides. He ate most of the sides and some of the grits (he wasn't crazy about grits either). He told me he was full afterwards, I told him I'm not and still have room for dessert. He looked shocked about this. I do admit though, I felt a bit odd out-eating a big African American man. Anyway, he watched me eat this:

Peach Cobbler. This was so yummy because the peach cobbler was
warm, borderline hot, but just right eaten together with a dab of vanilla
ice cream.

After the dessert, I experienced that cozy feeling you get after eating heavy and savory comfort food. I was very content and was ready to head back to the hotel to sleep. 

Thanks to Cardin, most of my U.S. colleagues now know me as "The Girl Who Can Eat A Lot". And as for the colleagues who had any suspicion about my eating ability, they no longer had any after they saw me in action at a conference in Utah a few months later. But....let's not get into that.

In the end, I realized that there is no mystery behind chicken and waffles. Basically, it is what it is:  fried chicken and waffle with butter and syrup. No fancy shmancy sauce, condiments, or secret ingredient that bonds the two entity together - there is no linkage whatsoever. Maybe this is precisely the reason why I didn't think this dish was all that great, simply because combining the fried chicken and the waffle together, however good and tasty they are on their own, did not give me a satisfaction greater than if both were given to me separately on two different plates. Chicken and waffles, in my opinion, lacks synergy. But hey, I'm not complaining, I'm just sayin' =)

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