In West Evanston, the chickens have come home to roost, resting on a bed of sweet, crunchy waffles. Chicago’s Home of Chicken & Waffles celebrated its grand opening on March 7 with live jazz music and politicians, civic leaders, business persons and local residents.
Art Norman of NBC Channel 5, who emceed the gala festivities at the restaurant, 2424 Dempster St., hailed “the rebirth of a staple of the black community – the restaurant.” Owners Darnell and Tanya Johnson and Rosemary Malone involved their families – and family recipes – in the business. Ms. Johnson did all the interior decorating.
Ms. Malone added, “Family abounds in this place.”
Mr. Johnson thanked City officials, Aldermen Peter Braithwaite and Delores Holmes, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz and Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, for “believing in me.”
Just off a plane from Washington, D.C., Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky said she was “glad to be here – and glad to get out of Washington.” She said she had never understood the combination of chicken and waffles but offered congratulations to the owners, “who are making things happen – not only enjoyment but employment.”
The Congresswoman was apparently not the only one enlightened that evening on the pairing of chicken and waffles. Diners in the know passed along the lore of the dinner/breakfast combination offered to late-night customers: When musicians come into restaurants after their last gig, some wanted dinner and others were ready for breakfast.
In a January post on her blog at pbs.org/food, Tori Avery says the “soul-food-inspired approach to the pairing” came from the Wells Supper Club in Harlem (New York City), which opened in 1938. “Wells became a late-night hotspot for jazz musicians, who would stop by late at night after their various gigs. The musicians, arriving too late for dinner but too early for breakfast, enjoyed the appetizing compromise of fried chicken and waffles.”
Without having to keep musicians’ hours, patrons can still have breakfast and dinner at “regular” times.