Last spring, one of my buddies finally made the move to Downtown. I asked him last week if he’s found any favorite eats near his loft so far. His face suddenly lit up, and he said, “Yes! This chicken & waffles place on Olympic is super!”
But then, just as quickly, his tone became dejected. What gives?
He followed with, “Well, I seem to be the only steady customer there. Not sure if it’ll survive.”
My curiosity piqued. “What’s the place called?” I asked.
“Mabel’s. They used to be open for dinner, but recently they’ve reduced their business to lunch hours only. Not a good sign, huh?”
So, guess where I went for lunch today?
Mabel’s Chicken & Waffles is on a stretch of Olympic Boulevard (east of Grand Avenue), dominated by scaffolding and signs of impending yet unrealized urban renewal. Lots of hard hats walking around, but aside from the construction crews, not much other foot traffic in general. At peak lunch hour, just after noontime, I was the only customer to walk in. Parking wasn’t that easy to find, either.
Ordering is casual and very easy at Mabel’s: You eat chicken & waffles here. Service is friendly. The tougher decisions come when you are trying to decide from a myriad syrups and dressings on offer on their menu. True to my usual form, I bypassed the conundrum by ordering every syrup, as well as their most popular dressing, which was the Sweet Asian Chili flavor. The only drinks available are bottled water, canned Sprite, and canned Coca-Cola. Dessert? Sorry, said the counter guy, no cheesecake today. No big deal. I paid at the counter, and was told there might be a 20-minute wait. Twenty minutes?! But there’s no one else here!
But hey, quality takes time, I said to myself.
So I took a seat, and waited.
Finally (to their credit), 19 minutes later, my food came out! The counter server apologized for the long wait, and even gave me a complimentary serving of powdered sugar to put on my waffles.
The syrups were all neatly placed in their own plastic containers, easy for dipping. The fried chicken (I ordered leg & thigh) was in a separate container, piping hot and smelling fantastic. The large waffle on which the chicken rested looked tempting as well. A generous side of the house potato salad came with my combo. Everything was definitely fresh.
Hungrily, I dug in.
It was so worth the wait. I mean it. Truly worth the wait.
The chicken was fried to perfection. The oil used was light, and the skin had that wonderful property where you can taste the marinade which had soaked in. The fried skin gently came off the flesh, which was juicy. It was utterly satisfying. Dare I even say that I liked Mabel’s fried chicken just a tad better than the (already terrific) fried chicken at Osso DTLA?
At this point, I hadn’t even tried any of the syrups or dressing yet! Ok, then let’s combine the waffle and condiments…
Wow! Another level reached. This was some really great food. The waffle was crispy brown outside, and just taut enough when you dig into it with a fork, revealing a fluffy, moist interior. There was great texture contrast with the juicy chicken and the waffle itself. My favorite syrup turned out to be the Jalapeno Vanilla Bean. And the fresh potato salad brought it all together.
Know that I was not a big chicken & waffles fan before this. But now, I guess I wasn’t eating at the right places in the past. Please go to Mabel’s and keep them in business. They’re open 11AM-3PM these days. Maybe en route to my next visit, I’ll call in my order to lessen the wait.
(Note: I have zero vested interest in this place. Zilch. But emotionally, I’ll be a sad puppy if a place serving food this good folds.)
Mabel’s Chicken & Waffles
314 W. Olympic Bl.
Los Angeles, CA 90015