It’s hard to think of a meal that’s as uniquely American and instantly delicious-sounding as chicken and waffles. We’ll venture to guess that whomever first thought to plop some fried chicken down on a fluffy Belgian waffle then cover the whole thing in syrup was a pretty quirky girl or guy.
But, we owe it to this mystery figure because a restaurant like Tampa Luv Chicken & Waffles just wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the creation this confused (salty/sweet? breakfast/dinner?), but often delicious meal.
Opened in October 0f 2011, Tampa Luvs sits in what looks like the former remnants of an old Pizza Hut on North Florida Avenue which we visited on this week’s Taste Tour of 813. It’s sparse, as it should be, with a chalkboard menu raised above the long counter for ordering and a dozen or so sterile, outdated chair and table pairings throughout the interior.
Tampa Luv’s success, like that of many great restaurants, is carried solely by its food, in this case it’s chicken and waffles all made-to-order and churned out in styrofoam clamshell containers.
If you think this sounds cheap, it is. Tampa Luv’s lunch special includes your choice of two fried chicken tenders or bone-in pieces (thigh, wing, or leg), a huge waffle, and a drink for a whopping $4.80 with tax.
The taste, though, is anything but. The charmingly mispelled Luv in Tampa Luv becomes all the more apparent after you sink your teeth into the salty crunch of the chicken’s breading. The thigh I ordered was spiced, but ever so lightly, crisped to a deep golden brown, and surprisingly juicy on the inside. Just the fact that each meal is made to order speaks volumes about the care this tiny hole in the wall takes.
The Belgian waffle was, well, as good as a Belgian waffle can be to this palate, which prefers the thinner, for lack of a better word, Eggo-style waffles. It’s light-brown color almost makes you think they’re working with some kind of cinnamon-infused waffle batter or something. Either way, it provides a soft, sweet contrast to the savory fried chicken that’s easily appreciated.
Oh, and syrup over fried chicken? I was a little dubious at first, but am now a full-on convert after this meal. As you wait for the chicken to cool (remember made to order = ridiculously hot), the syrup gets all up in the nooks and crannies of the breading turning the fried chicken into an oddly-satisfying salty-sweet treat.
Tampa Luv Chicken & Waffles is worth the visit just for the amazing price/amount of food ratio you get with their lunch special. Oh, but they’re so much more than that. Get a taste and you’ll soon see.