A year ago, I wrote a story for DFW.com about chicken and waffles, and how the dish is showing up on more restaurant menus in DFW. There are even variations that didn’t make it into the story: Rosako’s Soul Food & BBQ in Bedford has the “Thanksgiving 365,” and Bird Cafe in downtown Fort Worth has had a waffle carne asada (with skirt steak, brie and coffee maple syrup) on its brunch menu.
Obviously, we’ve come a long way from the anecdote I used in my introduction, a story about a Fort Worth couple who baffled guests when they served chicken and waffles at a party honoring two debutantes at Caravan of Dreams in 1997. Although the dish dates back at least to the 1930s, it was still largely a novelty in Fort Worth and Tarrant County less than 20 years ago.
Now there’s even a restaurant devoted to chicken and waffles — in upscale Southlake. Lo-Lo’s Chicken and Waffles, a Phoenix-based chain that opened a long-awaited Southlake location in early July, isn’t even the first place in Southlake to have chicken and waffles: Del Frisco’s Grille, which is a short drive away, has them on its brunch menu.
But at Lo-Lo’s, you can get them all the time, and in multiple variations. And if you don’t care for chicken and waffles or just aren’t ready to take that leap, there’s plenty of other stuff on the menu.
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The vibe: Friendly and a lot less diner-style than we expected. Two staffers held the door as my wife (a vegetarian bravely enterting a carnivore’s heaven) and I walked in, and the hostess and server were also eager to please. The main dining room has an airy openness to it, with hardwood floors, many four-top tables and booths with backing just garish enough for me to make a bordello comparison.
There’s a bar toward the front, a few TVs but they don’t dominate the room, and a patio — which, unfortunately, faces the Texas 114 access road near the busy Carroll Avenue intersection, so there’s not a lot of patio-dining serenity going on there, despite the patio’s own attractiveness.
Perhaps best of all was the music, a stream of Motown and other ‘60s/’70s soul music, played at a volume that was noticeable without challenging conversation. Lately, we’ve experienced a lot of restaurants where the music doesn’t seem to fit the atmosphere — a bakery/sandwich place pumping loud dance music, an elegant pizza/Italian restaurant blasting Jack-FM-style eclectic pop, a place with $30 prime rib cranking up the Joan Jett and Eddie Money — and we applaud Lo-Lo’s for playing music that fits its vibe. Although I’d take the playlist of Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and the Temptations anywhere.
The food: You want chicken and waffles? Let’s go Bubba Gump here: chicken and waffles with eggs, cheese and onions; chicken smothered with gravy and onions, and waffles; waffles with eggs (let’s not forget, a form of of chicken) and grits; wings and waffles. I went with what must be the most prosaic choice, which is a chicken breast and a waffle. Its more poetic menu name: “Betty’s Boob” ($8). Want two chicken breasts: “Try it DD” ($12)
The chicken, bone-in, was excellent. Well-seasoned, just-crispy enough skin giving way to juicy-as-advertised white meat. The chicken alone is worth it. The waffle was surprisingly thin, but then maybe I’ve been spoiled by the more inventive waffles at Fixture and Buttons.. But it was a good enough waffle, as evidenced by my sparing use of the accompanying maple syrup. And it made for a good mouthful paired with a bite of chicken.
My wife, taking one for the vegetarian team, went with a vegetable plate, which allowed us to try a bunch of sides. For $15 you get your choice of four sides, plus a piece of cornbread about the size of a softball. She went with collard greens, red beans and rice, fried okra and macaroni and cheese. We liked the beans the best, the fired okra the least. The four components of the plate were each fairly large, so it made for a lot of food even for two people. We also tried, and liked, the fried-green-tomato appetizer ($7).
If you’re not into chicken and waffles, Lo-Lo’s has an all-day breakfast menu that includes omelets and some of the most over-the-top sweet breakfasts this side of Yolk (pineapple upside-down pancakes, anyone?). It all looks good, just be prepared for huge servings. There are also lunch/dinner entress dwiches and burgers, allowing you to order something called “Malaysia’s Focheezy Juicy Hood Burger” in Southlake.
A note about the tea, which comes in large Mason jars. I’m an unsweet-tea drinker, but every now and then I get sweet tea by accident and usually don’t mind it. I grew up with the stuff, after all. But after asking for unsweet here, I was accidentally served the sweetest sweet tea I’ve ever tasted. My request for unsweet was quickly accommodated. But if you’re a sweet-tea drinker, this might be your nirvana. (There are also plenty of desserty-looking cocktails on the menu, as well as beer and wine.)
The verdict: I love chicken and waffles, so I’ll be back. But there are a lot of other places to try them in DFW, like the aforementioned Fixture and Buttons, plus Chef Point Cafe (where the chicken is superb) and Remedy in Dallas, plus some places that are still on my to-try list. But Lo-Lo’s has a lot to offer, and its offerings are generous.
Lo-Lo’s Chicken and Waffles, 1201 E. State Highway 114 No. 100, Southlake, 817-251-2663, http://loloschickenandwaffles.com. Hours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday, 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday.