Chicken and waffles is a great gift to the culinary landscape. The unintuitive combo blends a perfect combination of sweet, salty, crispy, savory, fluffy, gooey and succulent. Add some hot sauce and magical things can happen.
Unfortunately, Lucky J’s isn’t a great gift to chicken and waffles.
I have every reason to want to love this place.
It’s right down the street from my house. It’s in an adorable pinkish-red trailer with picnic tables and flowering plants. You can get real honest to goodness maple syrup and they offer a dozen varieties of spicy condiments to tweak your meal. Their motto is “Chicken for Strength, Waffles for Speed.” Heck, they even recycle their fryer oil into biofuel.
So what’s the problem?
It’s all in the execution, not the concept.
The chicken is coated in a super-thick breading that’s heavy on the dried herbs. Due to time constraints, the birds get a double fry treatment- once to cook them most of the way and then later, a second shorter one to get them hot before serving.
I understand the logic behind it, but in practice, with such a heavy batter, the second fry results in a super oily, lackluster final product. The chicken inside is moist, well-seasoned and tasty, but it takes some work to get down to it.
Spicy, spicy goodness...
My real trouble with Lucky J’s though, is the waffles. Ours arrived pale, thin and flaccid, looking more like something from a free hotel waffle bar than from a restaurant specializing in them. My ideal waffle sports an even golden-brown tone with a slight crunch on the outside that gives way to a soft airy interior with just a little chew.
Maybe it’s a matter of personal taste. I’ve heard that some people like really soft waffles with their chicken so that they can fold them to use like tortillas. I’m not convinced.
I will say that the prices are low and the portions are generous. $7.99 for half a fried chicken and two waffles.
Lucky J’s has only been open for about six weeks. It’s still in beta and I still have hope for it. Chef Jason Umlas has a good track record around town at places like Rio Grande and Roux, so I’m sure he has the skills to pull it off.
I love the diversity they add to the neighborhood dining scene and soon they’ll be opening indoor seating in the little building next to the trailer. They even have plans to add on a full kitchen sometime in the future.
Until then though, is there any chance we can get some wet-naps?
Lucky J's Chicken and Waffles
5703 Burnet Road Austin, TX
Also, in an important aside to those of you who have not yet purchased your hot dogs for Memorial Day grilling (and Fourth of July, and, well, pretty much any day from here until the end of summer), our friend Addie Broyles at the Statesman has put together great information based on a hot dog taste test she whipped up at her place a few weeks ago. Take a look and let us know if you agree with our tastebuds.