As I slung my car into the parking lot of Twiam’s Chicken and Waffles at 2517 Dixie Hwy., I prepared myself for the unknown. Never in my life have I eaten chicken and waffles, but apparently it’s been established as a successful food combination.
This odd couple originated during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1930s, and today is one of the most well-known Chicken and Waffle chains is the upscale Rosco’s Chicken and Waffle in California. Even Gladys Knight owns a chicken and waffle restaurant, and if it’s good enough for Gladys, it’s good enough for me.
Louisville’s very own chicken and waffle is run by Deborah Williams and her sons, Tony and Keith Williams. Avid U of L basketball fans might recognize the name Tony Williams: Tony was lucky No. 3 for the Cards from 1996-2000. In fact, Deborah initially thought the interview had to do with him.
“Twiam’s” is a play on words – that’s Tony’s nickname, and the entire restaurant pays homage to U of L’s football and basketball teams. Even the menu is basketball-themed.
Twiam’s began serving up fresh, golden-brown waffles and health-conscious pressure-fried chicken two years ago. Although it’s a new establishment, Twiam’s has already received several good reviews. Southern Living magazine proclaimed the sweet potato pie the “best in the South.”
The welcoming atmosphere also draws in customers. “People come and eat and they stay two to three hours – because they’re comfortable,” Deborah said.
And she doesn’t bother to rush guests out. A large plasma-screen television and comfortable booths encourage people to stick around.
But Deborah described the service as “fast and flairful,” which might have been “flavorful,” but her sweet Southern accent made it hard to tell.
Both are true, and I can vouch for that, because I didn’t have to wait long after I ordered to put chicken and waffles to the taste test.
One serving is half a waffle and two pieces of chicken, and is enough to stuff you silly. It only costs $3.19, very manageable for the college student craving some home cooking.
I smothered my waffle in syrup, took a couple bites, then ate a few bites of chicken. My taste buds didn’t revolt in the least. I washed it all down with the largest glass of sweet tea I’ve ever encountered.
“It’s really not that different from eating chicken with a biscuit,” Devon Haulk, University of Louisville student and my dining companion, said.
Students who still don’t think they can stomach this far-out Southern combination can order something else off Twiam’s expansive menu.
They offer all the home-cooked favorites, like grilled pork chops, country fried bread, grits, fried green tomatoes, T-bone steaks and collard greens. And that doesn’t include anything off the breakfast menu.
Deborah shocked me when she said she made her collard greens without meat – I certainly couldn’t tell.
The collard greens came seasoned and not soggy. Williams said Twiam’s collard greens are crisp because she hates “dead food”: she refuses to overcook her vegetables into unappealing side dishes devoid of nutritional value.
Williams gave me a taste of the award-winning sweet potato pie and a slice of buttermilk chess pie.
The chess pie literally made me cry out, “Ohmigosh!” Chess pie is possibly the world’s most difficult pie to master – often, it comes out runny or gritty. If you don’t take my word on anything else, believe me when I say this is the best chess pie in the city. And the sweet potato pie, which was loaded with cinnamon, definitely deserved its crown from Southern Living. My gut instinct told me the chess pie would be calling my name later that night.
After I willingly accepted a to-go box, Deborah told me with a laugh that my dining comrade and I were just like every other Twiam’s diner: “They don’t leave the food they ordered to be thrown away.”
Deborah, who was a very sweet host, said her secret ingredient is the little bit of Southern hospitality she puts into everything Twiam’s serves.
“Nobody else has food like this,” she said. “[People] have to come here to be satisfied”
Sometimes it’s easy to forget why people live in Louisville until you sit down for a hot plate and a warm smile at a place like Twiam’s Chicken and Waffles. If you go once, I can almost guarantee you’ll go again.