Chicken-and-Waffle Taco: Nico's Innovation Needs Work

Really, it's surprising no one thought of it sooner. But Nico's Tacos in North Beach claims to be the first to dream up the ultimate on-trend snack: the chicken-and-waffle taco. It's a genius idea on paper. Shame it doesn't hold up in execution.

I am something of a chicken-and-waffle snob. I just moved up from L.A., where I lived within walking distance of the great Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles. Roscoe's didn't invent the dish (its origins are murky; various camps credit Harlem, the South, even Thomas Jefferson), but Roscoe's made it famous.

It's a choose-your-own adventure sort of meal when done right. You've got a few pieces of fried chicken, a stack of fluffy waffles, and plenty of syrup and butter at your disposal. Balance is key. Some eat the components separately, but pros load up each forkful with a bit of everything to make a beautiful sweet/savory harmony.

The problem with Nico's taco — and a potential roadblock for the concept in general — is that the waffle-to-chicken ratio is all out of whack. The thin waffle “tortilla” is overwhelmingly sweet, more like those crispy Italian pizzelle cookies than yeasty breakfast hotcakes, and it totally dominates the underseasoned chicken. (Though kudos for the chicken's shatteringly crisp crust and juicy, succulent meat, not an easy thing to achieve with boneless strips.) A finishing drizzle of maple-garlic sauce does little to alleviate the sugar onslaught. When I'm paying $7.50 for a taco and maxing out my calorie budget for the day, I'm looking for something that's more than one flavor note.

At least when I'm sober. Drunk, stoned, or toxically hungover, this could be the most delicious thing ever. Seek it out at your own discretion.

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