From the Great North to the Deep South

Mike Cook

Entrees served with maple syrup frighten me. I'm always afraid my meals will be rendered inedible by being soaked in syrup. I know real chefs would never do this intentionally, but it's still a fear I have whenever I order something with maple syrup, which has been oddly often lately. Two meals, a lunch and a dinner, recently came with maple syrup, which had me wondering: is it everywhere, or is it just me?

I think I noticed because of my Canadian friend. He likes to add maple syrup to everything as a sort of culinary challenge. Sometimes I think he does it not because he likes the product that much, but because he likes to mess with his American friends. He's that kind of guy. He even puts maple syrup in burgers.

Usually it works, as it did with both the meals I had. It was no surprise the maple syrup matched my lunch at Paper Moon Diner, since I ordered their egg sandwich on French toast. Sandwiches that use French toast as bread are an extravagance only America could have conjured, and I'm very glad we have. I got my sandwich with bacon and was happy to find Paper Moon is serving very good bacon these days, in addition to the fact that the dolls stapled to the wall still creep me out.

The following dish continued my maple syrup and celestial-themed-restaurant journey. It was chicken and waffles at Rocket to Venus. The maple syrup would have made more sense had it been a traditional chicken and waffles. I was expecting a waffle served next to some fried chicken, in a sort of split-personality plate.

They can't do anything the typical way at Rocket, though. The waffle is covered in pieces of chicken in a thick chicken gravy. I've since learned that this is a Pennsylvania Dutch/Amish take on the chicken and waffle experience. Though surprised, I ate Rocket's version quickly and happily while pondering how much hair product it had taken for my bartender to achieve his "I just woke up" look. Chicken in real, non-canned gravy is excellent, and works surprisingly well with the light sweetness of the waffle batter.

The syrup wasn't even necessary with Rocket's version. With a more traditional chicken and waffles, the syrup would contrast the salty, crispy chicken. Or so I assume. I realized with shame while working on this article that I've never had a traditional plate of chicken and waffles.

So I am launching on a chicken and waffles odyssey. I'd love to hear suggestions on where to go. Though it doesn't sound traditional, the description of Miss Shirley's version is enough to launch a thousand ships, so that's surely on the list. Any other must try’s?

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