I had been meaning to tuck into a pile of food at Dame's Almost World Famous Chicken & Waffles since Blue Mountain Catering transformed its Main Street space this summer, but I have to admit I was scared. What sort of physical activity would render me famished enough to conquer such a meal?
Chopping wood? I don't have a fireplace. Wrangling cattle? We live in hog country. Maybe I could just walk from Raleigh to Durham one morning instead of driving. That ought to build up a chicken-and-waffles-worthy appetite. In the end, I simply skipped breakfast and headed over for lunch. Once I caught a whiff of the frying and baking aromas emanating from the kitchen, my trepidation became salivation.
Nobody seems to know for sure where the tradition of pairing waffles and fried chicken originated. Some trace it to 1930s post-jam sessions in Harlem where jazz musicians longed for both dinner and breakfast food in the wee hours of the morning. The decor at Dame's works the jazz connection with low lights and posters of legends like Billie Holiday and John Coltrane. No matter its origin, the chicken-and-waffles tradition thrives today at Dame's.
The kitchen has perfected the art of crisp here, delivering both waffles and chicken with perfect toothsome resistance. Between the bird and the bread, a thick layer of decadent whipped, infused butter—a "schmear"—completes the texture collision. The menu's creative taste combinations work like a charm. The ultimate may be the Quilted Buttercup, a fried chicken cutlet between two sweet, cinnamon-kissed potato waffles schmeared with maple and candied pecan butter ($9.25).
But fans of the Light Brown Leghorns, a pair of fried drumsticks alongside a classic waffle schmeared with chocolate hazelnut butter and drizzled with caramel-cashew sauce ($11.75), may disagree. Most of the 10 combos juxtapose the saltiness of the chicken with a sweet, creamy butter, but those who yearn for more savory flavors should try the jerk chicken and hot sauce of the Dueling Roosters – Rd. I ($11.25).
If you have room, you can add on a side like collards or mac-n-cheese, God help you. I found the heaping helping of waffles and chicken was more than enough to fill me up, and make me wish I could get hungry enough to go back for more.