By Richard Foss (Richard@RichardFoss.com)
Among the culinary mysteries of American cuisine is that unlikely combination: chicken served on top of a waffle.
There are claims that it was a traditional after-church lunch in Maryland or Alabama, a dish invented by displaced Southerners in Chicago, and that the breakfast and dinner items were first combined at a supper club in Harlem, NY. There are two things people agree on: chicken and waffles were an inspiration from the African-American community in the South, and when done right, it’s a tasty combination.
I wanted to find chicken and waffles closer to home than Roscoe’s and decided to visit Santa Monica’s Bru’s Wiffle – A Waffle Joint. I had been puzzled by the name ever since seeing their sign – Who was Bru, and what’s “Wiffle” – a waffle?
When I stopped in and asked a server, all became clear. The restaurant is owned by a Turkish woman named Bru, whose slight accent makes waffle come out as “wiffle.” She must have a good sense of humor about it, because she named the restaurant to include her eccentric pronunciation. The interior design has a sense of exuberant fun too: almost everything in cheerful yellows down to the flowers on the tables.
The menu includes a variety of burgers, sandwiches and wraps, as well as just about anything that can be made starting with a waffle or a piece of chicken. There is chicken Parmesan, chicken curry salad, chicken paninis; as well as waffles topped with scrambled eggs and chili; bacon, grapes and goat cheese; pepperoni, cheese and tomato sauce, and one made churro style. Basically, if you ever thought of some way to use chicken tenders or put anything on top of a waffle, Bru’s is probably already serving it.
My companion, a Southerner who may have been slightly dubious about some of the creations on the menu, decided to have a standard chicken and waffles plate, while I celebrated my California heritage with a “Waco” – a waffle topped with taco fixings. The Waco is offered with either grilled or crispy chicken, and when I asked my server, he said “crispy” before I even finished the question.
My companion ordered coffee, while I decided to try a soju-based Bloody Mary. Soju can do anything vodka can in a mixed drink, and it gave the right touch of crisp coolness to this one, which had a hefty shot of Tabasco sauce.
The heat in that drink led me to expect similar vigorous spicing in the taco waffle (I can’t keep calling it a Waco because both my brain and spell checker keep thinking of the city in Texas). This was not the case – the crisp Belgian-style waffle was topped with chicken, lettuce, pico de gallo, cheddar, mozzarella and the merest hint of finely chopped jalapeños. A nicely balanced spicy salsa was available on the side, along with sour cream and honey, and a dash of both the salsa and honey added something. It was a fun meal; filling but not overwhelming.
My companion’s Golden Chicken plate had a dusting of goat cheese and parsley over the waffle which added interest to what could have been a one-dimensional dish. With so few ingredients, we could focus on the qualities of each element. The waffle was the American idea of a Belgian waffle – thick with a crisp exterior – and very good, but not made with the malted batter that creates something more like a pastry. (It’s very rare to find real Belgian waffles in Los Angeles, because the yeast-based batter needs to rise overnight and is hard to make in quantity).
The waffles at Bru’s are at least the equal of Roscoe’s in my opinion, which is high praise. As for the chicken, I’m a traditionalist – skin on, bone in, and lots of herb seasoning in the batter – but I cheerfully admit that when made that way it’s less healthy and harder to eat neatly than skinless, boneless breast. That said, the chicken here was as good as chicken tenders get, crisp outside and moist within, and especially with the cheese and honey, it was delicious.
Bru’s is an eccentric little gem, and it’s hard to imagine anyone not leaving the place with a smile on their face – the whimsy and décor make that certain, not to mention the low numbers on the bill. I’m probably going to have to return, if only to find out what it’s like to have a meatball marinara waffle with a churro waffle for dessert.
Bru’s Wiffle – A Waffle Joint is at 2408 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica. Open Tu-Fri 8 a.m. – 3 p.m., Sa-Su 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., closed Mo. Beer, wine and soju served, some outdoor dining. Website at bruswiffle.com. 310-453-2787.