I've never really understood chicken and waffles. More on that later, but it sure as hell makes a lot more sense than chicken and eyeballs. I haven't been anywhere that serves eyeballs, but Homegrown Cafe certainly likes to decorate with them. And chickens. (Not real ones in either case.) The chicken decorations I can sort of understand—they're cute, and maybe there are people who like to consider what the animal they're consuming looked like before being butchered and fried—but the dozen-odd eyeballs scattered around the restaurant are baffling to me.
Back to the chicken and waffles: I like both components separately, and salty-sweet combinations are great, but the two together have just never made sense to me. I've always figured the versions I'd tried were subpar, but that's not the case here: the chicken was beautifully fried, moist on the inside and crispy on the outside, and served with white gravy, syrup (imitation maple), and, of course, waffles (good but unremarkable, and slightly limp). Somehow, though, the chicken and waffles together seemed like less than the sum of their parts—the gravy didn't go with the waffles, the syrup didn't go with the chicken, and I wasn't brave enough to try the gravy and syrup together. It may be time for me to accept that I just don't like chicken and waffles.
The biscuits and gravy, on the other hand, I had no trouble appreciating. The buttermilk biscuits were light with a slightly crunchy exterior, great for sopping up the maximum amount of sausage gravy—the same gravy that came with the chicken and waffles, but it tasted much better with biscuits. Sides were perfectly fine; I had no complaints about them, though I was surprised that hash browns turned out to be roasted chunks of potato and sweet potato rather than the shredded and fried potatoes I was expecting. And a single pancake was fluffy but went mostly ignored amidst the abundance of food.
- Julia Thiel
- I'm fairly sure that's a fake chicken foot sticking out of the bowl. Why, I have no idea.
Portion sizes are generous—there must have been half a chicken on the chicken and waffles—and prices are reasonable; almost all the main dishes are $8-$10 (the chicken and waffles, at $12, is the most expensive). The cafe, run by Gilbert Langlois, is a reinvention of Chalkboard; according to DNAinfo, Langlois changed the concept and hours so that he could spend more time with his son. It's kept the same casual, homey atmosphere, and the menu is brief but well executed, fitting for a neighborhood restaurant.
Homegrown Cafe, 4343 N. Lincoln, 773-477-7144, homegrowncafechicago.com