Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, October 4, 2013

River City Roundabout

Chicken n’ Waffles (you read it right)

You have to try some things at least once. Like wilderness camping. Or owning a business. Or eating chicken and waffles.

I have camped in the great outdoors, and I have tried to start a business, but I had never heard of eating chicken and waffles together until I saw the Mountain Waffle Wagon parked at Center Park on a Fresh Friday. My first reaction was one of amusement: “Chicken and waffles?” That must be a Southern thing,” the born and bred Yankee in me unwisely said out loud.

“You’ve never heard of Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles?” asked the cashier from The Muenster Truck while shaking his head. Okay, so, it’s not just a Southern thing.

But it did seem like an odd combination of foods – until I gave it some thought: “I like chicken, I like waffles, so surely I’ll like chicken and waffles.”

Before ordering, owner and operator Bruce Smith spoke with me about what makes his food good: First, he makes everything in his truck – so neither the chicken nor the waffles come frozen in a box. And he uses only the best ingredients. For example, the syrup he pours on this waffles is a blend of pure maple syrup and pure cane syrup.

Smith cut his teeth cooking when he was the captain of a boat that carried young people from Pompano Beach, Fla., to the Bahamas on missions trips. During the excursions, he was responsible for not only getting everyone safely to their destination but also feeding them three squares a day. The work was exhausting but he learned how to cook.

Life eventually brought Smith to Chattanooga, where he came across Famous Naters, one of the Scenic City’s premiere food trucks. Something clicked, and now he has a food truck outfitted with everything he needs. “It reminds me of a ship’s galley,” he said.

But how does the food taste? Smith stepped into his truck to make me an order of his soon-to-be-famous Chicken n’ Waffles, which is made of fried buttermilk chicken tenders drizzled with either honey dijon mustard or spicy jalapeño mayo,  topped with scallions, and stuffed into a buttermilk waffle. Clearly, the magic ingredient at Mountain Waffle Wagon is buttermilk.

As he worked, I browsed the other selections on the menu. You have to give Smith credit for coming up with fun names: There’s the Chatta Chicken Salad, the Hot Diggity Waffle Dog, the Bacon PB

(peanut butter) Jamboree, and for dessert, the Smokey Mountain Smore. The latter is made of warm chocolate ganache, toasted marshmallows, and crushed graham crackers folded inside a buttermilk waffle and topped with powdered sugar and whipped cream. You know you want one.

To keep things fresh, Smith changes the menu weekly. You might see the Monte Cristo, the Reuben, or the Boudin, a Cajun-flavored pork sandwich.

He also serves a variety of sodas, including Sioux City Orange, Root Beer, and Black Cherry, all of which are made using pure cane sugar and come in a cold glass bottle dripping with condensation.

But I was there to try the Chicken n’ Waffle, and I have to say, Smith knocked it out of the ballpark. The chicken tenders are meaty and crispy, the applewood bacon add-on gave my meal a slightly smoky kick, and the tangy but sweet honey dijon brought the chicken and the waffle together nicely. The waffle didn't quite hold together like a wrap would, but once you got the food in your mouth – oh man...

Will I go back? I'll put it this way: If this write-up made you want to try Chicken n' Waffles just once, you might see me there, enjoying the same or trying something new.

Visit www.mountainwafflewagon.com for times and locations. v