Chicken and waffles have certainly risen in stature at Lillie Mae’s House of Soul Food. The sweet and savory comfort food has become the focus at a new Lillie Mae’s location—it has been on the menu since the House of Soul Food launched in August 2010, but initially was a weekend-only special.
When Lillie Mae’s owner Rhonda Manning opened a second location—actually right next door to her first restaurant—she not only decided to serve chicken and waffles every day, she made them the centerpiece of the new eatery.
The new location, which opened in August of this year, was originally called Lillie Mae’s Living Room Bistro. When Manning changed the name to Lillie Mae’s House of Chicken and Waffles, she saw an immediate increase in customers. Unlike her House of Soul Food, the second location serves several varieties of waffles that people can order with their fried chicken: peach cobbler waffle, Ghirardelli’s white chocolate waffle, loaded bacon waffle. Manning has served other flavors as specials, and might make them part of the regular menu. Possibilities include the sweet potato waffle, the bananas foster waffle—even a waffle with fried chicken cooked inside.
That’s not the only difference between Lillie Mae’s House of Chicken and Waffles and the original House of Soul Food. The new place also serves some Cajun-style foods, like jambalaya, gumbo and shrimp po’ boys. And there are a few items at the original location not found at the new location, for instance: hot links, smoked turkey legs and family packs of fried chicken. Otherwise the two restaurants have a lot of overlap in their menus.
When I got lunch at Lillie Mae’s House of Chicken and Waffles, the server offered me grape Kool-Aid ($2.95), which I haven’t had since I was a kid. They do squeeze in some lemon for added tang, but otherwise it’s plain Kool-Aid, and it is surprisingly delicious.
For $5.95 I ordered an appetizer of fried pickles. Even in the deep frying process, the pickles retained their crunchiness and sharp flavor, though the tanginess was tempered by the batter, which was surprisingly spicy. The pickles were served with aioli sauce.
Of course, I had the chicken and waffles, but skipped the unconventional flavors and opted for the standard waffles ($13.95). Lillie Mae’s regular waffles have the distinct flavor of nutmeg, which, combined with the thick, warm syrup, is comforting.
Lillie Mae’s offers both single and combo meat platters. I ordered the combo with barbecue beef brisket and fried catfish ($15.95). The beef was chopped up and served with a sweet, tangy barbecue sauce. The catfish was juicy on the inside, crispy on the outside, but not as flavorful as it could have been.
The combo plates come with two sides, as well as a choice between cornbread and hush puppies. I ordered hush puppies, which are basically cornbread fritters. For sides I had collard greens and mac’n’cheese. Collard greens have a very strong, bitter taste and Lillie Mae’s serves them authentic. The macaroni and cheese was some of the best I’ve ever had—just full of flavor, with a layer of cheese baked on top.