While anyone can put chicken and waffle on a menu, not everyone can do it right.
My appreciation of chicken and waffles began at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles in L.A. several years ago. The combination of crispy fried chicken and a side of waffle with butter and maple syrup was a revelation. Salty and sweet together on one plate; great for a late breakfast as well as any other meal. Although I can make the trip out to Los Angeles to one of their five locations, with gas prices being what they are, it isn’t cost efficient.
In my search for chicken and waffles here in San Diego, I found two, albeit very different, places.
Bonnie Jean’s Soul Food Cafe is an unassuming place tucked near state route 94.
The menu offers the usuals found in a soul food place: catfish, ribs, collard greens, okra, as well as chicken and waffles.
While waiting, diners can pull down a board game from a stack in the dining room. It makes sense now why there are board games. It took nearly 45 minutes between placing our order and receiving our food. It would have been almost understandable if the dining room was packed but in the middle of the afternoon with only a few patrons, it was painful.
Eventually, our meals were served to us. The chicken was piping hot– fresh from the fryer I assume– and the waffle came with a small cup of melted butter. From my experience with other places serving chicken and waffles, the butter has always been either whipped or served as small pats but melted butter was entirely a new thing to me. Either it was the preferred way to serve it at Bonnie Jean’s or the butter melted while waiting for our meal to be ready.
While pretty standard, the waffle was nice with a hint of cinnamon in the batter and nice small grooves to hold in the syrup. But 45 minutes for a meal with another additional 20 minutes to get our check was a head scratcher. In addition, the waitress never served any utensils and we had to seek out our own when all staff disappeared for long periods of time without checking on any customers. The cost for grape-flavored Kool Aid was over $2 — highway robbery in my book, especially when you consider it’s made from a powdered mix. Reviews on Yelp are mixed on service and food.
Chicken and waffle at Bonnie Jean’s Soul Food Cafe is $9.99 with an additional $2.95 for white meat.
In Hillcrest, R Gang Eatery — under the supervision of Rich Sweeney, Top Chef alum from Season 5 — serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
R Gang Eatery is located almost right across the street from Hash House a Go-Go. While the lines for Hash House on Sunday mornings are insane with lines down the sideway, R Gang Eatery is easy to pop in and get seated immediately especially for small parties. But that’s not to say they are not busy, because they certainly are. Much like Bonnie Jean’s, this is the place where the locals go.
One of the items featured on their breakfast menu is their version of chicken and waffle.
Their chicken and waffle is served with a vanilla-jalapeno infused maple syrup. Although it’s definitely an eye opener for a sleepy Sunday brunch, it’s not for everyone used to having the usual run-of-the-mill syrup. But it’s the chicken that’s the stand out: boneless white meat chicken nuggets are perfectly seasoned with a tiny bit of welcome heat. The waffle that accompanies it is made in a deep-groove waffle iron. Unfortunately, the waffle has been inconsistent: perfectly golden on one visit and left a bit too long in the iron on a follow-up visit. The wait staff are amenable and will correct an inconsistency on the spot if it’s brought up. It’s something that’s nice to know but I always like to get my food right on the first try, especially when you’re famished.
Chicken and waffle at R Gang Eatery is $13.
While the search for the perfect chicken and waffle in San Diego is still on, I eagerly look forward to exploring other places and finding a hidden gem.
Read my post on Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles back in 2005 here.
Bonnie Jean’s Soul Food
1964 54th St.
San Diego, CA 92105
R Gang Eatery
3683 5th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92103
Roscoe’s is SO good! I usually go once a year (that’s all you need, really), but am overdue. Is that fancy syrup the only thing you can get at the second place? That would ruin it for me.
I am so missing Roscoe’s now! I love their drinks that seem only available at the Long Beach restaurant. It’s layered — yes LAYERED!– fruit punch and lemonade.
Fortunately you can get regular syrup with the waffles at R Gang Eatery.
We were in Vermont over the weekend for the start of maple syrup season and actually tasted some maple syrup infused with habanero. What a surprise to see jalapeno syrup show up on your blog two days later! It was fun to try, but I couldn’t imagine putting it on anything! Way too spicy for my taste. There were people there who bought two bottles of the stuff! Yikes!
Yeah, I can’t imagine using that syrup on anything. I think we’re just traditionalists. 🙂
There’s a place called Annie Belle’s that also has chicken and waffles right up the street from Bonnie Jean’s. You get these crazy huge chicken wings with your waffles. Also, ahem, I heard IHOP has chicken and waffles now. I’m only mildly curious about this revelation.
I’ll check Annie Belle’s. Thanks!
I’m going to skip IHOP because it seems so wrong…
Have you tried the chicken and waffle at Small Bar’s brunch? Aside from the fact that it comes with an amazing bloody mary that is practically a meal in itself, their chicken and waffle (and I think 2 eggs) is pretty tasty. Plain maple syrup and a pat of butter, but the chicken is boneless, so you can just cut away and create your bite.
We also tried the one at The Linkery’s new brunch, but I didn’t enjoy it as much. I can’t remember why. Maybe because it was a little more expensive and didn’t come with a bloody mary.
I’m in especially if there’s a bloody mary involved. I’ve been hearing a lot of things about Small Bar so I’m overdue for a visit. Thanks, Leanne.
I’m so glad you reviewed “real” chicken and waffles — like Mary, I saw that IHOP’s advertising their own take on the dish. I’m curious but am not a fan of the house that pancakes built…
In other waffle-revelation news, my husband and I made bacon waffles for dinner last week after finding out that Hash House made ’em — just pour the batter in the iron, cross a couple strips of bacon across and let cook. I served them with maple syrup and proceeded to chow down on four of them (A LOT of waffles in my book especially since there were other breakfast-y sides involved). Delish!
So the bacon was uncooked?? I definitely need to try that! Thanks for the hint, Lorena.
Nope — you cook the bacon first, then place in the waffle iron with batter. Sorry I omitted that important fact!
We cook up a whole package of bacon on the weekends and then dole out cooked bacon strips wherever we can use a little mo’ flava’ in meals throughout the week.
Thanks! I always take extra precaution when dealing with pork products.
hi darlene – i’ve been wanting to go here again. i had fried catfish last time. i liked the vibe there – chil. i don’t remember having to wait that long for our food though. that kinda sux.
@mary – i still have annie belle’s on my list of ‘go to’ places
I wanted to love Bonnie Jeans’ — I really did but I didn’t like it. The wait time totally ruined it for me and unmentioned in the review especially since it was centered around chicken and waffles was that they forgot part of my order. I met a few people offline who felt the same thing so sigh…
Hi Darlene, I need to check out Bonnie Jean’s soon. Roscoe’s! I haven’t been since my college days, haha.
So your college days as like last year or something??
Must be the “season.” I saw a sign outside a church near our local library for an all-you-can-eat chicken and waffles this Saturday. I also recently heard a friend say this was a Pennsylvania-Dutch tradition. I’m not sure about that, but lots of food around here is ” in the PA-Dutch tradition”; for New Year’s I had pork and saurkraut over mashed potatoes — that’s a whole ‘nuther conversation!
Speaking of Pennsylvania-Dutch tradition, I am envious you get butter brickle ice cream out there!
I’m soooo hungry now. That’s it. Darlene, if we ever meet out there in the real world, please let it be over fried chicken and waffles.
I can make that happen but I’m certain that if we do that my mouth will be so full of food that you won’t be able to understand a word coming from my mouth!
I can see us now. Two ravenous beasts with napkins in our laps, a waffle in one hand, a piece of chicken in the other. Our teeth stuck with crispy chicken skin and our fingers dripping with syrup. Sounds good to me. We’ll use our supertelepathy and call it a meeting of the minds. 🙂
Ah! Why have I been neglecting your blog for so long? It’s so beautiful!
I’ve never had chicken and waffles. It’s a very west coast thing. I do hope to make it out there one day though, and this meal will the on the top of my list.
y’all should try Annie Belle’s Famous Wings and Greens – Rolando – San Diego, CA they have real good chicken n waffle early morning deals!! and its really good i swear
Thanks, Boobie. I’ll check out Annie Belle’s — it’s on my list!