Peanut butter and jelly, burgers and fries, wine and cheese—some things are just better together, and chicken and waffles are definitely two of 'em. It’s a tricky dish to master; more often than not, one part of the equation far outshines the other. And yet, once you’ve taken a bite of a well-executed chicken and waffle dish, you just get it. While it can be hard to find fantastic chicken and waffle iterations so far from the south, these nine San Francisco restaurants all serve up versions that are utterly crave-worthy.
SF’s best chicken and waffles
There is nothing fancy about this bare bones spot in Bayview, but you’re not going for the decor—you’re going for San Francisco native April Spears' authentic and affordable soul food. Spears learned how to cook soul food in her grandparents’ kitchen before cooking at a Bayview restaurant owned by her godparents just down the street. So when it came to opening up her own place, it only made sense to do so in a familiar neighborhood, one where she serves up some of SF’s best chicken and waffles. The price point is fantastic: a couple pieces of crunchy fried chicken on top of buttery waffles (choose from original, cinnamon or buckwheat) will only cost you $9. Add a sweet tea to wash it down and then order a piece of pecan pie to go—you’ll be too full to enjoy it there, but will regret it for days if you go without.
The folks at Farmerbrown understand Southern cooking, but they also understand San Franciscans—which is why all of the ingredients here are seasonal and locally sourced. Think of it as upscale Southern comfort food, if you will. The chicken and waffles (two pieces of fried chicken and two Belgian waffles served with sorghum syrup) is only available at weekday lunch and weekend brunch, but the fried chicken is served as an entrée at dinner while the Belgian waffles are available as a side, so you can cobble the dish together if you’re visiting in the evening. Which, once you taste the chicken with its crisp batter and moist interior (yes, even the breast, which is quite a feat) along with light, fluffy waffles, will certainly be the case.
As soon as you step foot inside this casual family-owned Bayview restaurant, it’s clear that the owners are avid Giants fans. The walls are orange, the booths are black, Giants flags hang from the wall and the games are always on the TVs. All of the food is made to order, which means that after a bit of a wait (trust us, it’s worth it), your fried chicken will come out crisp, juicy and piping hot. The jumbo waffle arrives warm with just a hint of cinnamon that comes through in every bite, even after you slather it with butter and syrup. Ten bucks gets you three pieces of chicken and a waffle, which is a serious bargain, especially considering the portion size. All in all, it’s well worth a drive to Third Street to chow down at this restaurant where everything is “fried with pride.”
If you’re looking for Southern hospitality in the Mission, look no further than The Front Porch, a funky little restaurant with rocking chairs outside, a tin ceiling inside and a sign that advises patrons to “be nice or leave." It also just so happens that they serve some of the best fried chicken in SF. The only bummer is that you’ll have to visit during brunch if you want those three pieces of flavorful chicken with perfectly crunchy skin perched atop a cornmeal waffle with bacon bits baked inside. During dinner, the chicken is only available by the platter or the bucket with nary a waffle in sight. Life is hard like that sometimes.
The Hard Knox Cafe has been serving Southern homestyle cooking to San Franciscans since 1999; based on the fact that there’s always a wait to get in, it doesn’t look like either the Dogpatch or Inner Richmond locations are going anywhere anytime soon. Try not to fill up on the complimentary corn muffins (good luck with that), as the chicken and waffles comes with three big pieces of chicken that are fried until they’re crispy and golden brown, resting on top of a huge buttermilk Belgian waffle with a side of syrup. It’s a little pricier than some of the others at $14, but well worth every penny.
This tiny off-shoot of Farmerbrown is so well hidden down an alley in SoMa that you’d almost miss it—that is, if it weren’t for the scent of waffles wafting through the air and the constant crowds lined up outside the window waiting to get their fried chicken fix. Two pieces of chicken and two smaller Belgian waffles is $10.50, which makes for a perfectly filling (if not slightly indulgent) weekday lunch. The good news for those who don’t want to eat their chicken and waffles while sitting on a loading dock is that you can now order and take your grub over to Victory Hall & Parlor, which is right next door.
Mission Bowling Club only has six lanes, so there’s a good chance you’ll have to wait to bowl. Luckily, you can feast on the fried chicken and waffles while you’re waiting, a must considering the fried chicken is battered in a crust made of ground-up chicken skin and the waffles taste like deep fried corn bread. Sounds weird, maybe, but the duo is delicious. One bummer: The dish is only available during weekend brunch.
You could get two pieces of classic, Southern-style deep fried chicken and then add a waffle (classic or vegan) as a side. Or you could get the Chicken Fried Soul Sandwich: a bacon-wrapped and buttermilk battered chicken breast, fried and served between two maple-infused waffles with jalapeno coleslaw and spicy maple barbecue sauce. So, uh, the Chicken Fried Soul Sandwich it is. Obviously. There’s even a vegan version for those who want a fried chicken fix, hold the chicken.
Brunch at 1300 on Fillmore is a truly unique treat. A live gospel singer serenades patrons as they indulge in some of the city’s tastiest low-country cooking, and it’s the only time you can get David’s Fried Chicken & Rosemary Waffle with chili maple syrup butter sauce (that's chef David Lawrence, in case you were wondering). It’s an elevated version of the classic dish that tastes fantastic, and also perfectly complements the lively, soulful vibe that starts the second you sit down and stays with you for the rest of the day.