At first glance, fried chicken and waffles shouldn’t be a combination that works. Fried chicken is juicy, crunchy, and super-savory, and waffles are a breakfast dish eaten with syrup and butter. But somehow, when you pair the two together, something magical happens. These 10 restaurants do chicken and waffles better than just about anyone in America.
The history of chicken and waffles is long and winding. While nobody knows who it was who first paired them, we do know that Daily Meal Hall of Fame member and legendary gourmand Thomas Jefferson was the first American to bring a waffle iron over from France, and that fried chicken was also a common breakfast meat during that time. There isn’t much evidence of the dish’s existence in the South until the 1900s (fried chicken was a delicacy reserved for special occasions, and waffles were rarely found), but by the time the 1920s rolled around, the dish had become popular in the African-American community in New York, and especially in Harlem, and most modern interpretations are influenced by Harlem forebears.
Chicken and waffles is a much more difficult dish to perfect than it may appear. First of all, fried chicken itself is a notoriously difficult dish to do right – the outside needs to be crisp, flavorful and non-greasy while the inside needs to remain moist – and waffles — those lame toaster versions aside — need to be made from scratch, to order, and have to complement the flavor of the chicken. When done right, the combination of savory chicken and sweet waffle is like a warm blanket for the soul. If you’ve ever had amazing chicken and waffles, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
In order to assemble our ranking, we searched existing best-of lists both in print and online (including our own), and also combed through regional publications and local restaurant reviews. All of these restaurants make their fried chicken and waffles from scratch, and are certifiably renowned for them. From an old-school Harlem joint to a Miami gamechanger, these restaurants are serving the best fried chicken and waffles in America.
#10 Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles, Atlanta, Ga.
You can thank soul singer Gladys Knight’s grandmother for this fried chicken; the four golden and crispy full wings that come with every order are cooked using her recipe. The rest of the dish is no-frills: A tasty waffle, a packet of butter, and an orange slice for garnish — but that chicken is certainly something special.
#9 Yardbird, Miami
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar brings a Southern charm and influence to Miami, a place better known for its Cuban and Spanish food. Former chef Jeff McInnis, who has since moved on from Yardbird to open Root & Bone in New York City, is said to have boiled this fried chicken recipe down to a science by brining the chicken for 27 hours before dredging it in cayenne-spiced flour and frying it. Yardbird’s fried chicken has received numerous accolades in recent years, and for good reason. You just have to taste it yourself to see what the fuss is all about.