Fried chicken and waffles. It's dinner and breakfast in one. Crunchy fried chicken and crisp fluffy waffle. Both drowned in lashings of maple syrup. It's the only thing on my mind as we head to dinner at Jazz City Diner.
Dining room and booths inside Jazz City Diner
The dining room is tinier than you'd expect, with room for only 24 diners. Booth seating lines one wall, inset with a retro-style TV screen playing crackling old jazz recordings of Nat King Cole and more in black-and-white. If you miss out on a booth, the counter stools are just as fun, giving you a view of all the kitchen prep action.
Counter stools at the kitchen bench and the kitsch waitress uniforms
We stroll in just after 6pm mid-week and only just manage to snag the last available table. There may not be as much passing foot traffic on this end of Crown Street (even if Pocket Bar and Shady Pines Saloon are only around the corner) but the place is filled with a gaggle of twenty-somethings and locals.
Mary-Ellen, dressed in a crisp white-collared diner uniform, takes our order, although her thick German accent belies the name on her badge.
Peanut butter milkshake $10
The menu is a comforting mix of burgers littered with Southern US classics like Andouille sausage gumbo ($18), chilli cheese fries ($10) and cobb salad ($19). Some prices can seem a little steep - four shrimp corn dogs with salad come in at $28 - but head chef and owner Dan McGuirt says "I want to cook American food but with a modern approach," citing his prior experience with Vue De Monde as a major influence.
We start with the peanut butter milkshake, made with homemade ice cream according to the menu. At $10 a pop, it's not cheap, but it's so rich you'll want to share. The shake is lusciously thick and rich with peanut flavour, but it's not overly sweet. We piously avoid drinking the swirl of cream.
They also do spiders or floats (soft drink with ice cream) for $8 and the fridge is stocked with cans of grape Fanta ($4), Dr Pepper ($5) and A&W root beer ($7).
Johnny's Fatboy burger with sweet potato fries $19
The Johnny's Fatboy burger could be an endorsement or a warning. Maybe it's both. Either way, you're guaranteed to make a mess, with each bite of the thick juicy patty tumbling out nuggets of Texas-style chilli beef mince. In amongst the beef fest are shards of crispy bacon, onion, pickle relish, mayonnaise, tomato, lettuce, cheese and squiggles of bright yellow American mustard.
Sweet potato fries
The sweet potato fries on the side are dangerously addictive.
Backyard BBQ beef burger with onion rings $18 plus $4 upgrade for onion rings instead of fries
The backyard BBQ beef burger is a pool party of bacon, lettuce, tomatos, pickle relish and coleslaw slathered with a generous dollop of the housemade smoky barbecue sauce.
Onion rings will cost you an extra $4 (instead of potato or sweet potato fries) but it's worth it. The deep fried shell of batter is all crunch, protecting a shimmering centre of sweet and translucent onion.
Macaroni and cheese $8
We share a side of macaroni and cheese too, a huddle of elbow pasta in cheese sauce. The sauce is more on the runny side, without the telltale glorious stretches of stringy cheese I'd hoped for.
Chicken and waffles $24
And then. The chicken and waffles. It should double as main course and dessert. A heartwarming sight of golden fried chicken resting on a pillow of freshly cooked waffle. A border of jewel-like capsicum squares look fancy but seem a little out of place, although I'm too busy grabbing the metal pitcher of maple syrup and pouring like crazy.
Does it work? Of course it does. Anyone who naysays maple syrup and fried chicken need only look at Chinese char siu pork, roast pork and apple or turkey and cranberry to understand that sugar is everybody's best friend.
The southern fried chicken is impressive. Juicy and tender beneath the armour of nobbled batter with a haven of crunchy crevices. Mixing mouthfuls of this with fluffy waffle, slightly crisp at the edges, will prompt one of those "where have you been all my life" revelations.
Hidden beneath the chicken is a puddle of wilted spinach cooked in brown butter, a welcome touch of calorific respite. The only thing I would say is maybe it's best to only use half the syrup in the jug - otherwise you'll be wading through a pool of diabetes as your teeth start to tingle.
Pecan pie with butter pecan ice cream $10
They'd run out of the banana cream pie by the time we were ready for dessert (devastation!) so we settle for a slice of the pecan pie. The filling is a little runnier and stickier than most pecan pies, but the crust of sugary pecans on top is worth scrabbling over.
Fried chicken and waffles. What a way to start a new year!
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Jazz City Diner
238 Crown Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9332 2903
Lunch Tuesday to Saturday 12pm-2pm
Dinner Tuesday to Saturday 6pm-10pm
Closed Sunday and Monday
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1/07/2013 12:35:00 am