By Morgan Crutchfield
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE
A favorite Harlem dish, transported and made famous over 30 years ago in California, is now filling the tummies of Durham residents. Dame’s “Almost World Famous” Chicken & Waffles, on Main Street, serves up a unique flavor experience with sides of tradition and jazz.
The 1920s Harlem jazz scene is often credited with initiating the tradition. When the speakeasy clubs closed at 2 a.m., patrons would go out for chicken and waffles. Perhaps the most famous restaurant is California’s Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘N Waffles, which has been in business since 1975.
Durham’s Dame’s “Almost World Famous” Chicken & Waffles opened at 317 W. Main St. in August 2010. The booming business is centered on where and how chicken and waffles came to be, from the food, to the art, to the music.
On the walls of the restaurant hang paintings of famous jazz singers and musicians such as Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, and John Coltrane.
Owner, Damion Moore, 40, hung art work from his personal collection to give the place that “jazz atmosphere.” The music selection is jazz, jazz, and more jazz.
“Really couldn’t have chicken and waffles without jazz,” said Moore.
The jazz theme for Dame’s is no coincidence. Moore’s family is from Harlem, so he gained an appreciation for the dynamic chicken and waffles duo and the entire culture it embodied as a young boy.
“I believe what makes us unique from other chicken and waffles is that we do pay tribute to American originals such as jazz music and the food associated with it,” said Moore.
First time visitors, Samantha Leach and husband David of Durham recently soaked in the atmosphere while enjoying the food.
“This place is nicer than I thought and I love the jazz ambience,” said Leach. “This is a nice place to meet up with friends after work for a drink and a delicious, hearty meal.”
Like a lot of newcomers, Samantha and David were skeptical of the whole chicken and waffles infatuation, wondering if fried chicken and waffles would actually taste good together.
But they became believers. “We love fried chicken,” said Leach. “And a friend told me this was the best fried chicken in town, so my husband and I decided to try it out and we agree because I loved mine.”
“The contrasts of textures with chicken and waffles and the flavors of being sweet and savory has really been what distinguishes it and makes it work,” says Moore.
Wait staff member Isabel Valezquez, 21, of Durham, pointed out that customers always comment on the names of the entrees, such as “The Buff Brahmas” or “The Orange Speckled Chabo” which are a little strange and sometimes hard to pronounce.
Moore said that he wanted to make the entrées as outlandish as he possibly could.
“I did some research and found out that there are over 200 breeds of chicken worldwide, so I wanted my food to reflect some of those other breeds that we in America have never heard of before,” he said.
“The Buff Brahmas,” the entrée with the largest portion of chicken, reflects the biggest breed of chicken on the planet.
“The Orange Speckled Chabo,” mirrors the breed from Latin America which is a pretty bird known for its plumage.
Another entrée known for its name, but also its Japanese breadcrumb is “The Frizzled Fowl.” The Frizzled Fowl is a breed found in Asia.
The menu at Dame’s Chicken & Waffles may acknowledge the different cultures around the world, but the “Almost world famous” tag is Moore’s attempt to show humility and recognize that he is the newcomer among other chicken & waffle establishments.
He said that it would also give him something to strive for, “to be famous.” “Until we have a Dame’s overseas, or better yet, in every state, I think we’ll keep the tag,” said Moore.