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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

SFoodie's 92, Part 3: Our Favorite Things to Eat and Drink in S.F.

Posted By on Wed, May 19, 2010 at 10:28 AM

Page 5 of 31

Deliciously bipolar. - J. BIRDSALL
  • J. Birdsall
  • Deliciously bipolar.

Number 66: Cornmeal Waffle and Buttermilk Fried Chicken from Brown Sugar Kitchen

When fried chicken and waffles come together, it's a question of taking sides. Do you go with stellar chicken (craggy texture bubbled like a popcorn ceiling, white flesh seeping juices) with waffles that are inevitably merely meh? Or eggy, crackle-crusted waffles, next to chicken whose fast-food aspirations you try to bury under a pile of grease-stained napkins? Rarely do both elements have even rough equivalence ― except, that is, at Brown Sugar Kitchen in West Oakland. While owner-chef Tanya Holland's cornmeal waffles are inarguably good enough to land on anyone's mid-length list of best Bay Area dishes, period, her buttermilk fried chicken is likely to stir more debate than whether Oakland restaurants are eclipsing their cousins in the 415.

KFC cognate it isn't: Holland's fried chicken prizes flesh, not breading. Marinated with garlic and herbs (tarragon predominated in the leg and thigh pictured here), the taste is deeply chicken-y, the flour coating just about tempura-thin. It's fried in small batches and left to ripen on a baking sheet on a shelf above the range. Of course, the waffles need no convincing: popover light, with ridges as delicate as the thin bits around a piecrust's perimeter. You could argue ― and, well, we are ― that with waffles as texturally perfect as these, it frees up the chicken to be fleshy and delicious. Plus the apple cider syrup (you have to pay $2 more for maple, and the dish already costs $14) has a tartness that plays off the bird's richness beautifully. Our side-taking days are over.

Brown Sugar Kitchen 2534 Mandela Parkway (at Campbell), Oakland, (510) 839-7685; open till 3 p.m. Tues.-Sun.; closed Mon.

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