Which Came First: The Chicken or the Waffle?

Another black culinary tradition moves into the mainstream and sets off a debate about its origins.

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Roscoe's, which opened in 1975, caught the Hollywood imagination after famous friends of the proprietor, including Natalie Cole, talked it up in public appearances. As one writer, Jonathan Kauffman, said in an article in the East Bay Express in 2004: "Roscoe's made chicken and waffles famous in a way that Wells never did, and in the past decade the combination has slowly spread across America." Gladys Knight, who recalls eating at Wells, is a co-owner of a chicken-and-waffles joint in Atlanta.

People who like their fried chicken will swear by a particular restaurant or storefront or mobile-food cart. But IHOP's Pendergrass is too diplomatic to enter the fray. "I think we can certainly claim that we have the best pancakes out there, and our guests who know and love us should come in and decide for themselves whether our fried chicken is the best. We certainly have a wonderful waffle that, you know, if they love us for our pancakes, they should certainly try our waffles and certainly try our chicken."

E.R. Shipp is a regular contributor to The Root.

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