Big Red’s Chicken and Waffles

31 Dec 2012
Average Cost ($8-$14)
North Huntsville
3 out of 5

Melanie’s Take

There are some foods that you must eat to be considered Southern. Among these foods are fried chicken, collard greens, and biscuits. According to some people, you must also try chicken and waffles to be a true Southerner. Having never tried them and noticing a new place on North Parkway, Shane and I decided to give them a whirl. When we entered the old converted fast food joint, it took awhile for someone to take our order at the counter. I chose the chicken and waffles with a side of macaroni. We chose a seat in the messy dining area and waited for our chicken and waffles to arrive. After several minutes, one of the employees brought us styrofoam takeout containers that contained our food.

The food seemed to be fresh, and the chicken was cooked to order. The waffles were hot and tender but lacked crispiness, almost making them soggy. My macaroni was nice and thick with a creaminess to it, but it was otherwise standard fare. If Red’s makes it, it will be for one reason: the fried chicken was stellar. It was hot, juicy, and perfectly seasoned with a bit of a kick. Perhaps its best feature was the breading, which was light and crispy and mimicked the texture of a fish fry cornmeal batter. The magic of serving the sweet waffles alongside the chicken is similar to what you experience when you eat sausage with your pancakes. The flavor combinations were a nice balance to each other.

I would hate to see Red’s fried chicken go, but the less than great service and unkempt dining room make me wonder if it will be around for long. If you don’t feel like dining in, Red’s has a drive through window that we will be using next time we visit.

Shane’s Take

As evidenced by its numerous Bojangle’s and KFCs, Huntsville has no problem with chain fried chicken. Located in the old Old Hickory Barbeque building (pretty tasty barbeque there, by the way), Big Red’s is Huntsville’s only non-chain fried chicken store. Fried chicken is one of my favorite foods–it’ll drown sorrows nearly as fast as enchiladas or coffee (for heaven’s sake, though, don’t eat all three together)–so I looked forward to trying Big Red’s the first time I saw the sign.

From the moment we walked into Big Red’s, I felt like we were in a dying store, something akin to Dirt Cheap without the pillaging customers and rockin’ 70s party soundtrack. The place was noticeably unkempt: floors were dirty, chairs were strewn about, and walls needed scrubbing. I was particularly worried by the mostly empty soft drink syrup boxes: Could the owners not afford more syrup? Can Huntsville not support just one home-owned fried chicken joint? Is the store a mess because the owner has given up maintaining it? Am I participating in someone’s broken dream of restaurant ownership? I was really bothered by those empty drink boxes; they didn’t take away from the quality of food, but, well, they upset me a bit.

The atmosphere was a letdown, but the food was good. I ordered the chicken thigh and wing with waffles, a side of collard greens, and sweet tea. The chicken was cooked just right, fresh, not too dry or greasy, and flavorful without being gamy. The crust was crunchy and well-seasoned. It was different from other fried chicken batters I’ve had–I don’t know Red’s secret, but my guess is that he uses a fish fry batter instead of a straight flour, salt, and pepper batter. The waffle also tasted good, and it paired well with the chicken, but another piece of chicken would’ve been just as good. The collards also tasted good but needed a little more pepper.

Red’s is good for barely three forks from me. The food was almost 4-fork caliber, but the atmosphere was no good. The employees were friendly, but they were slow to take our order, and their solemn faces contributed to the melancholy atmosphere. I don’t imagine we’ll return.

Other thoughts:

  • Red’s is cheap. We ordered at will and got out for under $20.
  • I had no expectation of fine dining, but a good cleaning and a few pictures on the wall would be nice.
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