Thursday, September 06, 2007
Thelma's Chicken 'n' Waffles
Don't drive by this new Southern diner serving down-home, made-from-scratch food
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Thelma's Chicken 'n' Waffles (at the corner of Orange Avenue and Williamson Road in Roanoke) opened Aug. 16, and while the dining area was clean, it seemed a little dark for my tastes, even at midday. Several televisions mounted in the dining room were tuned to ESPN, and the mauve and wood-paneled walls are not going to grace the cover of Architectural Digest. But I liked how the "feel" of the interior reminded me of good Southern diners I frequented while living in North Carolina -- you knew the reason to go there was the food. Since Thelma's had been open less than a week when I was there, it would be unfair to judge the emptiness of the place during a weekday lunch. Eating at Thelma's was like being in on a secret.
First, let me explain a little bit about chicken and waffles. Yes, they are served together: Waffle on one side of the plate and fried chicken on the other. Yes, the waffle comes with syrup. Think of it as having brunch any time of day.
I must confess that I considered it my obligation to order the chicken and waffles, but I really wanted the fried catfish. Luckily, my friend ordered the fried chicken breast and waffle on the condition that I could taste. I rounded out my order with corn pudding, boiled cabbage, and, of course, sweet tea. The catfish was crispy, flaky and delicious. The corn pudding and cabbage were also terrific; the pools of butter on the corn pudding reassured that it was indeed made fresh. The cabbage was still slightly firm indicating that Thelma, wisely, had not boiled the life out of it.
The fried chicken breast was very good. The breading was not one of those thick, heavy coatings that you might find on fast-food fried chicken. It was lighter, though still deliciously greasy and flavorful. The fluffy Belgian waffle and syrup with a hint of cinnamon was also tasty, once you surrender yourself to the idea of waffle as a side dish to fried chicken. Chicken and waffle dishes also come with fried potatoes.
Of course, no Southern meal would be complete without cobbler for dessert. My blackberry cobbler was scrumptious and included the dumpling-like dough that I love. My friend's peach cobbler, on the other hand, seemed more "cakey" and had fewer peaches than I expected.
Also, the prices at Thelma's were a little higher than I expected, particularly at lunch. My catfish and two sides came to $9.59, and the bone-in chicken breast and waffle were $8.59, though other pieces of chicken are cheaper than the breast. Thelma's also offers a reasonably priced breakfast menu (served all day) including omelets, breakfast sandwiches, egg and meat dishes, and, of course, waffles.
Thelma's does offer salads, sandwiches, and subs, but after my next trip to the cardiologist, I plan to return just to try the Big Daddy omelet described on the menu as including "all meats grilled with onion, peppers and cheese."
We were served by a very pleasant waitress who was friendly, polite and cheerful. The one downside in otherwise efficient service was that I received my meal at least 10 minutes before my friend received hers. Of course, this was almost certainly a kitchen issue and not a service issue.
Just before we left, a man came out from the kitchen and identified himself as a co-owner/cook. He thanked us for dining at Thelma's, and his cheerfulness matched that of the waitress'. Food always tastes better in a welcoming atmosphere.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you're looking for something different, give Thelma's a try.