On The Menu

The Hen House Wings 'n Waffles (JP Review)


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It's restaurant week and you maybe asking yourselves why the heck hasn't JP and Abby gone to any places and given their reviews? Well to be honest, we kinda have mixed feelings for restaurant week. Currently we are booked for a dinner at Sel de la Terre for Friday night. I would have loved it if Clio or O Ya were participating in restaurant week and I would have tried to have gone a couple of times to each place. While restaurant week can be a good deal (especially for lunch) and it's a great way to experience restaurants that you normally wouldn't go to, it can sometimes be a negative experience as well. Last weekend, after our great dinner at Metropolis Cafe, we went to Sage to grab a few drinks. I've never gone in there before, but the bar was wide open. Food was being brought out to customers and it looked fantastic. The guy sitting next to us at the bar was eating rabbit and was enjoying every single bite. We asked the bartender about the food and if they were participating in restaurant week and replied that they were, but to not come to Sage then. It would not be a great way to experience their food he said. The menu is limited and portions are tiny. Come during a normal time and order a couple of items, which would be seasonal dishes with local produce, and share the dishes together. That, he said, would actually be cheaper than the restaurant week prices and you'd get a lot more. This is not the first time I've heard waiters or bartenders tell me this about their own restaurants during restaurant week. Le Zygomates (at least a couple of years ago) actually has a 3 course prix fix menu every night and for a few bucks less than the restaurant week prices. So sometimes going out to dinner for restaurant week is not the best of ideas, especially since all these restaurants are going to be jam packed with customers, your food might not get the attention that you might desire. That being said, Abby and I have come to agreement that every restaurant week we'd try to book the most expensive restaurants in town (Oak Room, Excelsior, etc) and this time it was Sel de la Terre by the waterfront.

Anyway, none of this has to do with the fact that we hit up the Hen House last night.

(Sorry for no pics, we forgot the camera.)

The Hen House is on Mass Ave towards South Bay right by the great Liquor Land. I've had chicken and waffles before, at the famous Roscoe's in LA, to be honest all I remember from that experience is that it was kinda expensive and they give you a whole cup of butter on your waffles. (I also remember scaring the crap out of some Indian girls my buddies were trying to spit game at while we were in LA for the Rose Bowl by screaming out to them that we were wankstas going to Compton to get some chicken and waffles. To this day I still think those girls were lame and had no sense of humor and were ugly, so no big loss...and to my credit, later that night we met Jennifer Gardner and hung out in a VIP section of some swank LA club for New Years, where I ruined more of my boys' game when I offended some Vietnamese chicks...god I rule as a wing man.) To my pleasure, Hen House was neither expensive, nor did they try to clog your arteries with their butter. (I'm assuming they are leaving that up to the fried chicken.)

(A quick history lesson on chicken and waffles taken from wiki, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicken_and_waffles.

The exact origins of the dish are unknown; there are several versions of its origins.

One version:
"As unusual as it might seem, the marriage of chicken and waffles actually has deep roots. Thomas Jefferson brought a waffle iron back from France in the 1790s and the combination began appearing in cookbooks shortly thereafter. The pairing was enthusiastically embraced by African Americans in the South. For a people whose cuisine was based almost entirely on the scraps left behind by landowners and plantation families, poultry was a rare delicacy; in a flapjack culture, waffles were similarly exotic. As a result, chicken and waffles for decades has been a special-occasion meal in African American families, often supplying a hearty Sunday morning meal before a long day in church..."

Another version:
Some historians believe the dish goes back to the late 19th century, when Southern African-Americans, recently freed from slavery, began migrating to the Northern United States. According to author John T. Edge: "My guess is that it comes from the days when someone would go out in the morning and wring a chicken's neck and fry it for breakfast. Preparing a breakfast bread with whatever meat you have on the hoof, so to speak, comes out of the rural tradition."

Benny's Home Cooked.com notes:
"It is interesting to note that this combination and/or recipe does not appear in What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, Abby Fisher, 1881. Mrs. Fisher was a former slave and her book is generally considered the first cookbook written by an African-American. These foods appear (but not together) in Mrs. Porter's Southern Cookery Book, Mrs. Porter, 1871."

Regardless of where this dish originated from, I'm glad it's around.)

There is an large outdoor area with 5 or 6 large picnic tables, and when you enter the restaurant, the first thing you notice is how much space there is inside. Large groups can easily be accommodated here. I have a feeling that most of the orders here are take out. The menu is actually quite large, with pizzas and sandwiches, but we were here for one thing: Chicken 'n Waffles! On the large chalkboard menu above the register is a step by step way of ordering. (At only $7.49!)

1. Choose your waffle: I went with multigrain.

2. Choose your butter: I went with hand whipped.

3. Choose your waffle syrup: I went with Clove Honey.

4. Choose your chicken: I went with whole pieces, which turned out to be a breast and a thigh.

5. Choose you sauce: I went with Jamaican Jerk.

There are plenty of sides one can order as well, but I passed on them tonight. They have Mercury Brewery sodas, and I went with the root beer. (I'm obsessed with root beer!)

We had a bit of a wait for our food, enough time for me to move my car which was parked in a tow zone along the street before the Hen House to a legal spot on Mass Ave. Once our food arrived, there were some confusion on the sauces but it was all worked out quickly, we sat outside and began to eat. The waffle had some melted butter in the center and was fluffy and hot. I accidentally poured way too much clove honey all over my waffle, and I kinda wish I didn't because the multigrain waffle was absolutely delicious. Next time I'll have to remember to go easy on the honey. The chicken looks like it was dipped in a light batter before being fried and was very juicy. The skin, which as many of you readers may recall is something I love, was flaky but not nearly as crispy as I would have liked. Our friend Joey, who was dining with us, said his chicken tender was good, but seemed to be more similar to battered fish (ala fish and chips) then to chicken tenders. This I can kinda agree with, since the look and texture of the fried skin was more similar to the fish than to say KFC or Popeyes. The Jamaican Jerk sauce was a disappointment, but there was enough flavor in the chicken that I didn't need the sauce much anyways. The breast was very good (as most breasts are, in any shape, form or fashion) but the thigh was a puny piece of meat. I kinda wish that it would have been a drumstick instead, because I love drumsticks.

I most definitely will come back, maybe to get a bucket of chicken or to try some of their sides. If you have never had chicken and waffles before, please come and try...it's well worth the $7.50 you are going to spend, and its a combination that works in spades. I give Hen House a 3 1/2 out of 5.

Hen House Wings 'n Waffles on Urbanspoon


I'm a visual person. I need pics! Don't either of you have a camera phone??