In honor of International Waffle Day (March 25), we went in search of chicken and waffles, a combo that’s always sounded odd to my Northern ears. But although the dish is associated with the South, some claim it originated in Pennsylvania Dutch country in the 1600s (with pulled, not fried, chicken); that it entered the cuisine when Thomas Jefferson brought the first waffle iron over from France; or that it was popularized by Wells Supper Club in Harlem, which served it as a wee-hours dinner/breakfast meal.
To make matters more confusing, International Waffle Day began with a bona fide Swedish holiday, Våffeldagen (Waffle Day), on March 25, nine months to the day before Christmas—i.e., the day Mary got the news of her pregnancy. Not to be confused with US National Waffle Day celebrated on August 24—the day the first waffle iron was patented.
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Sweet Potatoes’ house salad is a dandy option for a more health-conscious meal.
So, where does one find chicken and waffles in Westchester? I tracked them down at Sweet Potatoes in New Rochelle, a small café serving soul-food staples such as fried catfish, collard greens with smoked turkey, cornbread, and sweet tea. The fried chicken (a choice of white meat, dark meat, or a mix) is simple but tasty (made with flour rather than breadcrumbs), the waffle dense and not especially sweet—there’s plenty of sweetness in the syrup, after all. It comes with a nice house salad with blue cheese and raspberry vinaigrette. Candied yams, which I was invited to sample before ordering, are just too sweet for my taste. A side of spinach, wonderfully garlicky, was sadly also inedibly salty. But the mac and cheese is freakin’ awesome. A dessert case holds sweet potato pie, red velvet cupcakes, peach cobbler, and banana pudding with vanilla wafers. I have a feeling I’ll be back. Their catering storefront a few doors down, Sweet Potato Grande, holds a brunch with live jazz every other Sunday.
Now that Neil’s Cafe up the road has closed, their main competition for chicken and waffles may be IHOP (with locations in Larchmont, Yonkers, and Hartsdale), where Belgian waffles are accompanied by white-meat chicken strips with honey mustard dipping sauce. (I have no idea how they are, being constitutionally unable to go there without ordering pancakes.) But surely they exist elsewhere in the county. I’ve not yet tried the version on the lunch menu at Madison Kitchen in Larchmont, made with whole crispy poussin, blue cheese waffle, and house-made Buffalo sauce, but I’m putting it on my calendar for August 24.
393 N Ave
(914) 654-0500; sweetpotatoesnr.com