Chicken & Waffle @ The Brown Sugar Kitchen, West Oakland

Oakland Booty: The apple cider syrup can almost make you forget about maple.

The Brown Sugar Kitchen is a great little breakfast-lunch spot located in West Oakland, a vibrant little oasis flanked by imposing industrial buildings on every side. The restaurant is hardly a secret these days, and it seems to be flirting with “destination” status — a place that bustles with regular neighborhood-type business, despite being so far removed from any actual neighborhoods. Every time I’m there, I tend to wonder where most of the patrons come from, although by the looks of them, I’m pretty sure they’re either trekking down from Berkeley, or else heading west from Rockridge and Piedmont. As for me, I drove 40 miles from Napa, just in time to catch the restaurant’s last hour of lunch. My trip, of course, was motivated by chicken and waffles, and my obsessive compulsion to suss out every single effort in the Bay Area.

• • •

Chicken and waffles has a special place in my heart, and the version at the Brown Sugar Kitchen warrants some considerable praise. First things first: The chicken, always the main event in this line-up, was perfectly cooked through, not remotely dry in any way, and with crispy skin (although not quite as über-crispy as the fried chicken at Gussie’s or the Boon Fly Cafe). Beneath the skin, I’m not sure if the chicken at BSK spends any time in brine, although I suspect that it does not. I will admit, however, that BSK’s fried chicken does seem to get by on its own — brine or no brine — even at the risk of appearing under-seasoned (but really, considering that I’m prone to douse the bird with hot sauce anyhow, it may all be a moot point). What I really need to rave about, however, is the Brown Sugar Kitchen’s waffle, which is easily one of the best waffles that I’ve ever eaten. Made with corn meal and served with apple cider syrup, the waffle features a terrifically crispy outer texture, but at the same time, remains impossibly light in structure. This contrast is profound in the same kind of way that great pizza dough is profound (and like truly great pizza dough, perhaps just as rare).

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