When I was producing talk radio back in my early days in Los Angeles, a stop at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles became a weekly Sunday night ritual. Having Roscoe’s as a late-night dining option was truly a godsend, especially since their Pico-La Brea location was midway between K-Town (home of the KLSX studios) and the Los Angeles Westside (where I lived for more than 10 years). Having visited Roscoe’s well over 100 times in my life, I’ll always remember that restaurant as the very model of consistency — always perfect — with devastating fried chicken. The waffles at Roscoe’s were also brilliant, totally by the book, served with the right kind of whipped butter, and accompanied with warm maple syrup.
Since I’ve relocated to Northern California, I often daydream about Roscoe’s, wondering why I had limited my visits to just once per week. Now more than ever, Roscoe’s represents my benchmark for fried chicken and waffles, and it’s not just because of the food. There is a certain context to Roscoe’s — a time and a place — that can never be duplicated for me. I don’t wish to bore anyone with my life story, but living in Los Angeles — practically starving right out of college and then living reasonably well during the dot-com boom — there were certain comforts that I could always count upon, no matter what my situation dictated (Paco’s Tacos on Centinela was another stand-by, as was Versailles Cuban on Venice).
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Although I’ll always be hung up on Roscoe’s (and hopelessly so), Gussie’s Chicken and Waffles in San Francisco offers a terrific version of this namesake dish. Just like Roscoe’s, Gussie’s fried chicken features crispy, rendered skin with just a hint of breading, alongside a perfectly-cooked interior. As for the accompanying waffle, I suspect that Gussie’s standard waffle recipe may have been cribbed from Roscoe’s itself. In fact, despite my deep allegiances, there are moments when I can almost convince myself that Gussie’s might almost be Roscoe’s equal. Almost.