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Odd Couple

Despite naysayers, the Breakfast Klub makes the marriage of chicken and waffles work

Breakfast is a peculiar meal. Pouring syrup on grits served with eggs and catfish seems insane to me because it combines sweet and savory. But chicken and waffles is exactly the same idea. I get the feeling there is no combination of foods that would faze Marcus Davis. "You can tell a lot about a person by how they eat their breakfast," he says with a knowing grin when I tell him about the syrup-in-the-grits incident. "Some people put jelly in their grits. Some mix their grits and eggs up together. We got one guy spreads his grits in a layer on top of his toast." It's a meal that encourages improvisation, he shrugs.

It was just such a spirit of creativity that gave birth to chicken and waffles. Roscoe's has done so well with the odd combination in California that it has inspired others around the country to take up the chicken and waffles banner. Sandora's Box in Dallas and Roy Henry's Famous Chicken and Waffles in Austin tried to bring the concept to Texas. Last I heard, they were both out of business. Here in Houston, the Fusion Café has chicken and waffles on the menu. (Although the location on Main Street, around the corner from The Breakfast Klub, has closed its doors, the other location in the Village is still serving them.) A former Pip squad leader and a gospel great teamed up to open Gladys Knight and Ron Winans' Chicken and Waffles on Peachtree Street in Atlanta about five years ago. This appears to be the only restaurant dedicated to chicken and waffles that's made it in the South -- although one wonders if it's the star power or the chicken and waffles that brings in the crowds.

What really makes chicken and waffles odd is that it's an African- American dish that doesn't have anything to do with the South, which may explain why it has been slower to catch on here than in L.A. and other cities unsteeped in Southern tradition. But it didn't start out on the West Coast, as Davis and most other people assume, either. It actually started in Harlem.

"You can tell a lot about a person by how they eat their breakfast," says owner Marcus Davis.
Deron Neblett
"You can tell a lot about a person by how they eat their breakfast," says owner Marcus Davis.

Location Info

Map

the breakfast klub

3711 Travis St.
Houston, TX 77002

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Downtown/ Midtown

Details

Hours: Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Saturday, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. 713-528-8561.

Catfish and grits: $8
Chicken and waffles: $6
Breakfast special (before 9 a.m.): $4.50, (after 9 a.m.): $6
French toast with eggs and sausage: $5.50
Meaty 3 omelet: $6
Bottomless cup of coffee: $1.50
Cappuccino: $2.50, (large) $3

3711 Travis

The details are a little vague, but legend has it that the combination originated during the Harlem Renaissance. The now shuttered Wells Restaurant on Seventh Avenue was famous for the dish and may have been its birthplace. But it was really the "invention" of black musicians who gathered in Harlem for late-night jam sessions after their regular shows. They would wind up the evening at three or four in the morning with a meal at an all-night restaurant. Some couldn't decide between fried chicken or breakfast food at that late hour, so they ordered both. This explains a lot about chicken and waffles -- especially when you take into account the fact that jazz musicians of this era were reportedly fond of smoking marijuana while they played.

Chicken and waffles, it seems, isn't one of those solemn culinary marriages like truffles and foie gras. It's a lark. Like pretzels and chocolate ice cream. A come-home-stoned, stand-in-front-of-the-refrigerator kind of concoction.

Now that I have gained an insight into the chicken and waffles thing, I want to go back to The Breakfast Klub and try it again in a different frame of mind. But this brings up another problem: The Breakfast Klub opens at six in the morning and closes at two in the afternoon.

Chicken and waffles makes the most sense at four in the morning.

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