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A Soul Food Staple Gets Creative at Dame's Chicken & Waffles

By Pamela Sosnowski

Anyone who thinks there's only one way to cook the classic soul food dish chicken and waffles probably hasn't visited Dame's Chicken & Waffles restaurant in Durham, NC. At Dame's, the sweet and savory comfort food duo is available in several tasty, inspired combinations such as the "Quilted Buttercup" entrée, where a crispy chicken cutlet is served smothered between two sweet potato waffles accompanied by a maple-pecan "shmear", or sweet cream butter.

It's these unique flavor twists that inspired owner and head chef Damion "Dame" Moore to open his eatery and introduce new ways of savoring the beloved food he grew up on in Harlem, New York. "Chicken and waffles is near and dear to my heart," says Moore. "The pairing of the two components brings together (a) culinary contrast of sweet, savory, crispy, fluffy and creamy (when you add our "shmears"). As a venture, we wanted to represent chicken and waffles in a modern and eclectic light while still remaining true to its origins."

Chicken and waffle combos offered include "The Barnyard Honcho", a chicken cutlet paired with a classic waffle, two eggs cooked to order, and grits, and "The Frizzled Fowl", a panko-coated chicken cutlet served with a classic waffle, blueberry shmear, plum sauce, and almonds.

Says Moore, "All of our combinations get great feedback. Our more exotic offerings definitely have a loyal following. 'The Light Brown Leghorn', 'The Buff Brahmas' and 'The Orange Speckled Chabo' are particularity popular." For those who prefer to create their own combinations, the "Dame's Daily Deal" comes with the diner's choice of chicken, waffle, and shmear and is offered on select days of the week.

The waffles come in five varieties: classic, sweet potato, gingerbread, blueberry, and vegan. Seven shmear flavors are available, including chocolate-hazelnut, orange-honeycomb, and peach-apricot.

True to its roots, the restaurant serves other Southern dishes such as blackened salmon, shrimp and grits, chicken wings, and triple cheese and macaroni. The items on the children's menu (for "Chick-A-Dees" ages 8 and under) include a free soft drink. Each table is covered with a paper "tablecloth" and crayons are provided so that kids (and creative adults) can doodle away while waiting for their food.

Moore maintains that his downtown Durham restaurant will remain a popular soul food landmark for a long time to come. "Chicken and waffles has been and will remain a staple in American cuisine for several reasons," he says. "It's a comfort food that can be served any time of day. We believe that Dames' perspective on this American Classic will have longevity because we exceed the expectation of those who've had it elsewhere AND we open the eyes and palettes of 'first-timers'."

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