Jumping For Chicken-And-Waffle Joy
As my Ono, You Know team discovered this week, you have to have some fun when seeking out a dish like chicken and waffles.
I mean, there’s something inherently exciting, even comical, about the unlikely pairing of crispy, deep-fried dinner food and a fluffy breakfast mainstay. But if you’re open to trying such a one-of-a-kind combo, you’ll taste — with pleasure — exactly why these culinary opposites attract.
A look into the history of chicken and waffles only furthers the delight surrounding this classic dish. Though its roots, in regard to fried chicken, go back to Southern soul food, the entree as we know it today rose to popularity in 1930s Harlem, New York, where musicians of the bustling jazz scene would grab a late-night bite of chicken and waffles at famous eateries like Wells Supper Club after a long night of musical improvisations.
A dish with such a cool story deserves to be in the spotlight, so I set out to the once-hub of Hawaii’s music scene, Waikiki, to find some local renditions. My search led me to International House of Pancakes, where I was inspired to take its beloved acronym IHOP quite literally — not just hopping, but jumping for joy at the sight of its Chicken & Waffles. For more, I ventured down the road to another comfort-food hot spot, MAC 24/7 Restaurant and Bar, and I’m dying to tell you all about it:
PUT SOME ‘IHOP’ IN YOUR STEP
Once I finally settled down from all that jumping around, I was able to sink my teeth into crispy pieces of chicken tenders perfectly contrasted by soft, fluffy waffles offered up in Chicken & Waffles ($12.99), a lunch and dinner favorite at IHOP.
General manager Darlene Balcita confirms that while diners have a choice of pairing their entree with ranch or honey mustard sauces, “It tastes really good with our honey mustard,” she recommends.
What I love about this version of the classic dish is that the chicken tenders have all the crunchy, golden fried-chicken coating you could ask for, yet because they’re boneless, they’re nice and easy to devour — especially when your appetite gets the better of you.
The waffle side of the dish comes with a nice wad of butter, and IHOP’s collection of syrup flavors placed at each table only accentuates the one factor that makes chicken and waffles so appealing: that sweet-meets-salty interplay.
In this department, old-fashioned maple-style syrup does the trick, of course, but Balcita encourages guests to try something different to take this flavor profile to the next level: “I’m going to be honest with you, the butter pecan syrup is the way to go,” she says. “Just drizzle it on top.”
With excellent customer service, IHOP is ready to make your meal a memorable one when dining at any of the three Oahu locations (two in Waikiki and one in Pearl City). Be on the lookout for current pancake specials — Sweet Peach, Strawberries and Cream and Blackberry Cheesecake — as well as the new Cheeseburger Omelet. That’s right, go ahead and indulge.
1850 Ala Moana Blvd., Waikiki
(and two other Oahu locations)
OLD-FAVE GETS A MAKEOVER
When I stopped into MAC 24/7 Restaurant & Bar for my next chicken-and-waffles adventure, I knew I was in for an above-average bite. That’s because the Hilton Waikiki Beach restaurant specializes in dressing up the best in American and Island comfort foods.
Enter Fried Chicken & Waffles ($20), complete with beer-battered onion rings, house-made gravy and a kick of jalapenos.
“It’s been a very popular item on our menu for years,” says the restaurant’s new sous chef, Chris Yniguez. “Chicken and waffles is an American soul-food staple, and since we’re all about Modern American Cuisine (what the acronym in the eatery’s name stands for), we absolutely needed a signature Fried Chicken & Waffles dish.”
Each part of this entree is special, starting with the fried chicken itself. While it’s made the tried-and-true way with an irresistible crunch to its perfectly fried skin, the chicken is given a local touch with the marinade additions of sesame, soy and garlic. Pour a thick waterfall of hearty, traditional gravy — oozing with depth of flavor from ground chunk and sausage with fennel and basil — over the chicken and waffles, and your taste buds will be in for a most satisfying treat.
“The chunkiness of the gravy gives it a very home-cooked-meal feel,” explains Yniguez. “The savory gravy plays well with the sweetness of maple syrup — when you pour the two over your waffles, crispy fried chicken and jalapenos, it’s an irresistible combustion of salty-sweet-spicy flavors.”
Now that your mouth surely is watering, let me give you even more to look forward to at MAC 24/7. The restaurant is introducing a few new menu items later this month, including a giant tempura fish sandwich and pan-seared pork chop with mushroom gravy, the latter of which is adapted from the eatery’s popular Pre-Sunset Dinner menu. Also, with Father’s Day coming up, MAC 24/7 is getting ready to roll out its Barbecue brunch buffet menu, expected to feature a mix of brunch favorites and barbecue meats — just what Dad is craving.
MAC 24/7 Restaurant & Bar
Hilton Waikiki Beach
2500 Kuhio Ave., Waikiki