The thought of fried chicken and waffles served together is, depending on your viewpoint, either gloriously appetizing or somewhat frightening. Who knows, maybe both. But for such a beloved combination of salty and sweet, it seems there's no universally agreed upon way to serve it. From the waffle (thin and soft, or Belgian), to the chicken (juicy leg and thigh, or meaty breast), there are myriad combinations of these ingredients. Then add your choice of condiments -- butter, syrup, Red Rooster sauce, gravy -- and it can all feel a bit overwhelming. We've endured the subsequent food comas to test the many possibilities of this cult-like dish, from the traditional to the fancy, and in every price range and neighborhood.
A.O.C.'s new location is magical and romantic, albeit pricey, but indulging in this hearty dish is a relatively inexpensive way to experience Suzanne Goin's excellent wine bar. Her version of chicken and waffles is perhaps the most variant from its traditional counterpart. A cornmeal waffle is topped with A.O.C.'s spicy Spanish fried chicken, served in strips of breast tenders, and then layered with sliced prosciutto. It's a stylized, yet incredibly flavorful and textured, version of this dish that packs a punch. 8700 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles; (310) 859-9859.
Hip, but not overly so, SteamPunk is a surprising little coffee shop on an unassuming stretch on Burbank Blvd. Abundant street parking (hallelujah!), bountiful seating and Caffe Vita coffee make this a welcome escape from the chaos of central L.A. The house specialty here is a chicken and waffle "stack," which gives the dish a fun twist. Miniature waffles sandwich not just buttermilk battered fried chicken, but bacon and fried egg, although you may find it easier to eat with a knife and fork. The extra ingredients don't detract from the chicken or the waffle, and a cayenne maple aioli gives it the kick that spice-lovers seek. The stack is served with a kale salad with garlic and onion, just in case health is a priority for you. 12526 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village; (818) 508-1276.
Don't try to ask for breasts or thighs here (or a Royale with cheese) -- this L.A. institution serves up a wicked waffle with wings. While many visit Pann's to catch a glimpse of memorabilia from Pulp Fiction (it was filmed at Pann's former sister restaurant, Holly's), they keep coming back for the house specialty. A classically simple Belgian waffle holds up against the hot syrup and melted butter, it's grooves filling with liquid but never getting soggy. The crispy outer layer of the chicken wing balances out the substantial waffle, and the wings themselves are meatier than most. All that served in a retro diner where you and your fellow cinephiles can reenact scenes from Pulp Fiction. 6710 La Tijera Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 776-3770.