Columbia Star

1963        Celebrating 60 Years      2023

The Mystery of Chicken and Waffles




I think I have some street cred when it comes to being a Southerner. I was born and raised here, but more importantly I think “Coke” pretty much covers everything in the soft drink genre, and I won’t drink tea unless it’s syrupy sweet and thoroughly iced.

I fry everything from chicken to pickles to okra, and I know what a chitlin is.

I consider a side bowl of macaroni and cheese to be a “vegetable” serving. I talk slowly and believe anything below 75 percent humidity to be quite comfortable. I sprint to the grocery store for bread and milk at the slightest hint of snow.

I think “y’all” and “ain’t” are actual words, and there are only two real seasons: college football and college football recruiting. I’m also of the mindset that National Signing Day should be a holiday.

I spent a significant portion of my childhood in a Waffle House booth. I believe a biscuit can be both a breakfast food and a side dish for any given meal. It can be smothered in gravy, dripping with grape jelly, or holding anything inside from an egg to country fried steak.

I’m so southern I actually know the difference between grits and hominy, but there’s a fairly recent phenomenon that has me extremely perplexed… even more so than the rise of goat yoga.

I know a few things, but I’ll be darned if I know where and when chicken and waffles became a thing…and more specifically a southern thing. Maybe I’m not as southern as I think I am, or maybe it’s some vast Yankee conspiracy, but I need answers.

Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles is the self- professed first restaurant in the Midlands “dedicated to serving the famed chicken and waffles dish.” I remember driving by the restaurant in 2012 thinking, “Eeeww, gross! Good luck with that concept.”

But here we are seven years later, and Kiki’s is a Columbia institution. KFC has even jumped in the mix with the Colonel and Mrs. Butterworth’s getting uncomfortably close in an ad promoting the combo craze.

Neither invented the dish though, not even close.

A gentleman from Harlem named Herb Hudson, founded Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles in Long Beach, California way back in 1975. That may be southern California, but it ain’t “Southern.”

Herb doesn’t get credit either. Some say African Americans cooked up the recipe in the south many years ago, while others attribute it to the Pennsylvania Dutch.

Who knows?!?

If I could throw my two cents in, I would suspect a teenage boy came up with chicken and waffles. Teenage boys will eat anything, and I speak from experience having been one myself a long time ago and now having one in the house.

One day the only food we had left in our refrigerator was some fried chicken leftovers and half a box of Eggo frozen waffles.

Well, guess what my son ate. He liked them too.

For the record, he knew nothing of the rise of chicken and waffles. He just knew he was hungry, and those were his only options.

I can only guess a similar scenario played out many years ago and some restaurateur eventually seized upon an opportunity. If it was in the south, then so be it.

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