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.
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