Who wants waffles? The answer is just about everybody. Since the 1600s when Dutch colonists arrived in the New World and first showed off their waffle-making skills, the crunchy, grid-like quickbread has been a mainstay of the American breakfast. Traditionally served with butter, syrup, fruit or—in the case of early settlers with more savory tastes—covered in a rich kidney stew, waffles are no longer reserved for the morning menu.
The marriage of spicy fried chicken and crispy, warm waffles is a match made in Southern foodie heaven. Though the origins are a bit sketchy, the dish was likely born in the kitchens of African-American Southerners who relocated to the West or East coasts, according to the book, “Fried Chicken: An American Story,” by John T. Edge. Striking the perfect balance between trendy and traditional, these innovative cooks struck gold on a plate, perhaps as far back as the 1930s. Though it took a while for the combo to take that southerly turn, diners across the state can’t seem to get enough of the dynamic duo. Restaurants are meeting the demand with innovative versions of what’s become a classic dish.
This turn of events has highlighted the versatility of the waffle. Chefs are certainly seeing them in a whole new light, going full-on gourmet by creating signature waffles using herbs, flavorings and creative toppings. But waffle purists are far from a dying breed. Consider that Waffle House restaurants—which never close—serve up 145 waffles per minute. That’s a lot of syrupy, buttery goodness going down the hatch, round the clock.
No matter your waffle preference, there’s a restaurant waiting to cure your craving. Here’s a roundup of some of the best waffles and waffle dishes from across South Carolina:
Cahill’s Market, Bluffton – This homey farmer’s market café is famous for its made-from-scratch pecan waffles topped with cinnamon honey butter and cooked apples.
Early Bird Diner, Charleston – Think pecan-crusted fried chicken paired with cinnamon waffles, served with sides of honey mustard sauce and maple syrup. Yum!
Eli’s Table, Charleston – This downtown hotspot has a way with waffles for every meal of the day. For breakfast, get sweet potato waffles topped with seasonal berries and cinnamon butter. For lunch, get them gussied up with fried chicken, cinnamon butter, bacon maple glaze, kale and Brussels sprout slaw. Dinner is a more elegant affair featuring duck and waffles – a dish that’s good enough to wash down with fine wine.
GB&D, Greenville – An acronym for “Golden, Brown & Delicious,” GB&D is known for its rotating lineup of inspired eats, which includes waffles. Chicken and waffles are a mainstay, though, with a yeasted waffle serving as the vehicle for fried chicken, sunny side up egg, bacon jam and maple hot sauce. Dessert waffles with accoutrements, such as cream cheese, strawberries, nuts and granola, are also sinfully delicious.
Johnny D's Waffles and Benedicts, Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach – The Food Network says the best waffles in South Carolina are found on the Grand Strand at Johnny D's—and customers agree. Thick, golden-brown, crunchy-on-the-outside, tender-in-the-middle Belgian waffles are the restaurant’s calling card. Get waffles just about any way you want them here: chicken and waffles, red velvet waffles, fruit waffles, cinnamon waffles or the dessert-breakfast mash-up banana split waffle. Any way you get 'em, the eating's good.
Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles, Columbia – Experience chicken and waffles in all their down-home glory with Kiki’s signature dish: a Belgian waffle topped with fried chicken. Walnut, pecan, sweet potato and chocolate waffles are also on the menu for those seeking a waffle taste adventure.
Millers All Day, Charleston – Waffles are made here from freshly milled grains and topped with bananas, sorghum, caramel and puffs of meringue for a dish that’s as awesome to behold as it is to dig in to.
Page’s Okra Grill, Mt. Pleasant - Chicken and waffles are a rousing favorite at this bustling eatery, where Belgian waffles make a sturdy bed for a Southern fried chicken breast dressed up with lemon and honey butter.
Papa’s Breakfast Nook, Spartanburg – Belgian-style or regular waffles are served crispy with house-whipped butter, fresh berries and whipped cream at this popular breakfast spot.
Southern Culture, Greenville – This upscale kitchen does Southern right with a heavy shot of flair—think savory waffles here. For brunch, try Gramma’s Revenge, a waffle sandwich with fried Springer Mountain chicken, an egg, white cheddar, bacon and Dijonnaise. For supper, fill up on a cornbread waffle with half a fried Springer Mountain chicken, slaw and pepper jelly—a dish so popular you’ve got to get there early to snag one.
Tandem Crêperie & Coffeehouse, Travelers Rest – The crepes are quite fine and the waffles are sublime at this European-style restaurant. Blueberry compote, whipped cream and syrup are one luscious choice, but opt for a waffle topped with bananas, walnuts, dark chocolate sauce, whipped cream and syrup to whip your taste buds into a wild frenzy.