What's Good Here: It's chicken and waffles, together again, at Scotty's Table 

Unlikely food combinations are in vogue. Buzzfeed's Tasty and other cooking sites are busy filling your Facebook feed with artery-clogging recipes for Doritos-encrusted mozzarella sticks and cheesy stuffed plantain tots. The market for adventurously unhealthy foods is booming, but few of these dishes offer anything in the way of staying power. Not that they could. After all, these abominations are indebted to a truly delicious and genuinely unique marriage of flavors: chicken and waffles.

While the Pennsylvania Dutch were topping waffles with pulled chicken and gravy as early as the 1600s, according to PBS food columnist Tori Avey, the combination achieved its apex in late-1930s Harlem. Avey says the Wells Supper Club served the dish to hungry jazz musicians who, arriving too late at night for dinner but too early for breakfast, got the best of both worlds: deep fried chicken on top of fresh waffles.

Growing up in Billings, the only restaurant I could find that served the dish was the local International House of Pancakes, which haphazardly tossed some chicken tenders on top of listless waffles—not exactly a fair representation of a mind-exploding soul-food mainstay. But even then, with the chicken served lukewarm and the waffles tasting like something from a cheap hotel's continental breakfast, the combination was tantalizing enough to keep me coming back.

  • photo courtesy of Scotty’s Table

Moving to Missoula opened up my culinary world, and after years of searching, I've found a replacement for the chain restaurant catastrophe I ingested for so long: the chicken and waffle sandwich at Scotty's Table.

Available only on the brunch menu, the chicken and waffle sandwich is an elevated take on a classic pairing. The deep-fried, buttermilk-brined chicken breast rests between two quarters of a cheddar-bacon-chive waffle, dressed with bacon, tomatoes and arugula for good measure. But without some sort of maple flavor, your dish is destined to feel incomplete. Luckily, Scotty's adds a healthy dose of sweet-tangy maple-mustard sauce.

Scotty's take on the pairing is a little more upscale than the New York original. It dares to add more complexity of flavor to a dish that already toes the line of excess. There is just the right hint of cheddar, and the veggies add a much-appreciated freshness to every bite.

This may not be a soul-food classic, but it doesn't need to be. It's a decidedly innovative spin on an unimprovable original, and even purists should have no problem singing its praises.

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