The menu at Dame’s Chicken & Waffles is a study in intuitiveness. They have chicken — wings and cutlets, gloriously fried in a batter that manages to be both sweet and savory.
And they have waffles — blueberry waffles, sweet-potato waffles, gingerbread waffles, vegan waffles and a classic version, each as big as a competition Frisbee.
They have other stuff, too: nightly specials with Southern flair, salads, a host of signature sides like mac and cheese, greens, grits and fresh fruit.
But why, I ask, would you order anything but chicken and waffles from a place named for the dish?
A recent weeknight visit to the Greensboro Southside location — one of two, with the other in Durham — revealed a packed dining room. I have been eating at this location since it was built, first at the Press, then at Vintage 301. And I have to say that Dame’s draws a crowd that surpasses anything those two restaurants, fine as they were, could muster.
After a brief wait, my dining companion and I perused the menu. She does not eat chicken in any form save for broth, so for her it was either a salad or the night’s special, a shrimp-and-grits dish that held promise.
My choice was less clear. At Dame’s, chicken and waffles come in many forms.
Along with the aforementioned varieties of chicken and waffles, there is a list of “shmears” — basically flavored butter — that introduce new tastes to each dish: strawberry crème, vanilla-almond, chocolate-hazelnut, orangehoneycomb and the like. A list of “chicken & waffle inspirations” pairs these ingredients in ingenious ways, and I had trouble making a decision.
I finally decided on the Carolina Cockerel, which boasted three fried wings atop a blueberry waffle, with a peach-apricot shmear, listed as Dame’s favorite. Dame, who graduated from UNCG before opening his Durham concern, looks to be a man who knows something about vittles.
There was a time when people would look at you quizzically when you said you were going to eat chicken and waffles at the same time. Rooted in American soul-food tradition, diners enjoyed the dish in Harlem, NY and certain LA neighborhoods for a hundreds years before it became more mainstream in the last decade. Now just about every city has a chicken-and-waffle joint.
The dish is ingenious. While you eat the chicken, crispy crumbs of batter drop down on the waffle. When the chicken is done, dessert is right there, graced with those crunchy bits.
Of course, some eat the whole thing all at once. Whatever you’re into….
My dish came out with an extra wing — sweet! — and I took them down quickly, relishing the honeyed batter and smoky afterburn, which went well with a dash of hot sauce.
I applied the peach-apricot shmear, slathered on some syrup and then went to town on the waffle. I generally do not care for blueberries, even when they’re ensconced in waffles, but I believe this is the best waffle I have ever eaten, with big, juicy blueberries and a smooth vanilla undertone. What was amazing was not that I ate the whole thing —— which was indeed a challenge — but how quickly I took it down. It was one of those times where you look down at your plate and can’t believe it’s clean.
The shrimp and grits were formidable as well, with slices of chicken sausage that my date plucked from the pile and put on my plate to be devoured. But within minutes she had cleared her dish as well.
There is no dessert menu at Dame’s. There is no need for one.
Dame’s Chicken & Waffles; 301 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Greensboro; 336.275.7333; dameschickenwaffles.com/Greensboro