SFoodie's 92: Chicken and Waffles from Brown Sugar Kitchen
As a daily windup to the Weekly's Best of S.F. 2010 on May 19, we've teased out 92 of our favorite local dishes that taste like here. All the tasty details after the jump.
J. Birdsall Deliciously bipolar.
Number 66: Cornmeal Waffle and Buttermilk Fried Chicken from Brown Sugar Kitchen
When fried chicken and waffles come together, it's a question of taking sides. Do you go with stellar chicken (craggy texture bubbled like a popcorn ceiling, white flesh seeping juices) with waffles that are inevitably merely meh? Or eggy, crackle-crusted waffles, next to chicken whose fast-food aspirations you try to bury under a pile of grease-stained napkins? Rarely do both elements have even rough equivalence -- except, that is, at Brown Sugar Kitchen in West Oakland. While owner-chef Tanya Holland's cornmeal waffles are inarguably good enough to land on anyone's mid-length list of best Bay Area dishes, period, her buttermilk fried chicken is likely to stir more debate than whether Oakland restaurants are eclipsing their cousins in the 415.
KFC cognate it isn't: Holland's fried chicken prizes flesh, not breading. Marinated with garlic and herbs (tarragon predominated in the leg and thigh pictured here), the taste is deeply chicken-y, the flour coating just about tempura-thin. It's fried in small batches and left to ripen on a baking sheet on a shelf above the range. Of course, the waffles need no convincing: popover light, with ridges as delicate as the thin bits around a piecrust's perimeter. You could argue -- and, well, we are -- that with waffles as texturally perfect as these, it frees up the chicken to be fleshy and delicious. Plus the apple cider syrup (you have to pay $2 more for maple, and the dish already costs $14) has a tartness that plays off the bird's richness beautifully. Our side-taking days are over.
Brown Sugar Kitchen 2534 Mandela Parkway (at Campbell), Oakland, (510) 839-7685; open till 3 p.m. Tues.-Sun.; closed Mon.
Hungry for more? The dishes in our countdown thus far are linked below:
No. 92: Cracked Half Dungeness from Swan Oyster Depot
No. 91: Pastrami Sandwich from Orson
No. 90: Coconut Bun from Out the Door on Bush
No. 89: Brown Sugar-Black Pepper Biscuits from Little Skillet
No. 87: Indian Pizza from Zante
No. 86: Tamales from All-Star
No. 85: Chilaquiles from Nopalito
No. 84: Poc Chuc from Poc-Chuc
No. 83: Chocolate Beignet from Arlequin Cafe
No. 82: Scallop Crêpe from Ti Couz
No. 81: Gin and Tonic from Pizzaiolo/Boot and Shoe Service
No. 80: Quesadilla from Rico Pan
No. 79: Turkey Kati Rolls from Kasa
No. 78: Emperor's Pancake from Suppenkuche
No. 77: Lasagna from Zuppa
No. 76: Chicharrones from 4505 Meats
No. 75: Langka Ice Cream from Mitchell's
No. 74: Bacon Potato Chips from Who's Your Daddy
No. 73: Lamb Dumplings from Kingdom of Dumpling
No. 72: Chile-Braised Carnitas Sandwich from Bento 415
No. 71: Chili from Mission Burger
No. 70: Croissants from La Farine
No. 69: Xiu mai bani mi from Saigon Sandwich