Chicken and waffles elevate Frank's to a celebrated soul food restaurant - Albuquerque Journal

Chicken and waffles elevate Frank’s to a celebrated soul food restaurant

Frank’s 2 Tender Famous comes with two white meat chicken tenders and a waffle. (Richard S. Dargan/For the Journal)

The identity of the person who first thought to put fried chicken and waffles has been lost to history, but key events in the spread of this sweet and savory treat are known.

The dish first took hold in the United States in 1930s’ Harlem, where it was popular among musicians who finished their sets too late for dinner and too early for breakfast. Harlem native Herb Hudson brought it out to Los Angeles in the 1970s at his restaurant, Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘N Waffles, and it exploded in popularity over the ensuing decades. Today, you can find it everywhere, from brewpubs and high-end restaurants to chains like KFC and Denny’s.

The popularity of fried chicken and waffles is easy to understand. It’s an entree and dessert in one dish, a filling start to the day and a hangover antidote for the end the night. Long as there’s some maple syrup and hot sauce nearby, it can be adjusted to each palate.

Albuquerque’s reining master of this culinary phenomenon is Frank Willis, owner of Frank’s Famous Chicken & Waffles. A Lobo basketball player in the 1990s, Willis started his cooking career by preparing and delivering soul food from his sister’s apartment. A brick-and-mortar restaurant on San Mateo and Copper followed in 2013. Willis moved to a bigger location a block south of Central a few years later. His facility with traditional soul food has won acclaim near and far. Last year, he was featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” where he showed host Guy Fieri how to make pecan and bacon waffles.

Frank’s Catfish Platter consists of a couple of cornmeal-coated fillets served with two sides. (Richard S. Dargan/For the Journal)

Frank’s new location on Washington, just south of Central, stands out in a neighborhood of small apartment buildings and an auto service station that appears to be closed. The barnlike structure has a red roof with a small cupola poking up in the middle. The parking lot is on the south side of the building.

A narrow patio holds a row of tables with umbrellas facing Washington. It’s a comfortable setting, the R&B music playing from the speakers above accompanied by the chattering of leaves from a couple of large trees that provide additional shade. Each table is stocked with the essential accessories for chicken and waffles: a bottle of hot sauce and a roll of paper towels.

The concise menu fits on one side of an embossed page. Almost everything is under $15.

Fried chicken is available as wings and tenders, with or without waffles. I ordered two tenders with one waffle ($7.50). It’s a terrific dish and a good value. The two pieces of white-meat chicken were moist and tender under a thick, crispy coating. Instead of the big thick Belgian-style waffle that turns up so often in this dish, Frank’s version comes with a thinner, more evenly textured and spongier waffle. It was ideal for sopping up syrup and sauce.

My friend ordered the Catfish Platter ($15.75), which came with two catfish fillets coated in cornmeal and fried. The mild, slightly sweet fish was flaky and moist, the coating well-seasoned.

Frank’s Shrimp Po’ Boy’ is served in a sub roll with pickles, slaw and tomatoes. (Richard S. Dargan/For the Journal)

Each platter comes with two sides chosen from a wide array of options. My friend had wanted to order the Candied Yams ($3.50), but it was out of stock, so he got the Fried Okra ($4.50) and Green Beans ($3.50). The okra nuggets, armored in the same cornmeal coating as the fish, were crisp and not greasy at all. They make a great snack when paired with the accompanying ranch sauce. The beans were served with finely diced potatoes in a soupy, salty liquid.

There are two sandwich options on the menu: po’boys and fried chicken. The Shrimp Po’ Boy’ ($10.75) looked pretty innocuous served in a sub roll, but the combination of the shrimp in cornmeal breading and the sauce delivered lots of spice, acid and brine, abetted by fresh tomatoes, crunchy slaw and house-made pickles. It stands with the best sandwiches in the city. You can swap the shrimp for catfish for the same price.

The only dish we had that missed the mark was the Cheesy Grits ($3.50). They were bland and not particularly cheesy.

Drink choices include soda and stout mason jars full of Kool-Aid, lemonade or sweet tea ($3.50). The latter had just the right balance of sweetness and black tea flavor.

There are two desserts: Peach Cobbler and Pecan Pie, both for $4.75. A scoop of vanilla ice cream is $1 extra.

The host and two servers were friendly and attentive, and our server was well-versed on the gluten-free options. The upshot is, the fried chicken is not gluten-free, but the stuff fried in cornmeal is gluten-friendly.

In just 10 years, Willis has gone from making food in an apartment kitchen to running a celebrated soul food restaurant. Eating there, it’s easy to see why.

Home » Entertainment » Dining Reviews » Chicken and waffles elevate Frank’s to a celebrated soul food restaurant

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
'It's been a great ride': Longtime Balloon Fiesta executive ...
ABQnews Seeker
Longtime Balloon Fiesta executive director is ... Longtime Balloon Fiesta executive director is retiring
California is lone holdout in Colorado River cuts proposal
ABQnews Seeker
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) -- Six Western ... FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) -- Six Western states that rely on water from the Colorado River have agreed on a model to dramatically cut water ...
New Mexico faces a budget abyss if oil and ...
ABQnews Seeker
Report predicts $36 billion revenue deficit ... Report predicts $36 billion revenue deficit in 15 years possible
Senate panel, on party-line vote, approves bill increasing minimum ...
ABQnews Seeker
A push to increase the minimum ... A push to increase the minimum age to buy certain firearms from 18 to 21 cleared its first Senate hurdle Monday, after a heated ...
Bill aimed at bolstering NM's patchwork rural health care ...
ABQnews Seeker
A proposal to tap New Mexico's ... A proposal to tap New Mexico's revenue windfall to bolster health care services in rural parts of the state where residents frequently have to ...
New Mexico bill to restrict lobbyist ‘revolving door’ advances
ABQnews Seeker
A proposal moving through the Senate ... A proposal moving through the Senate would prohibit former legislators and appointees working under the governor from returning immediately to the Roundhouse as paid ...
New Mexico’s checkerspot butterfly placed on Endangered Species List
ABQnews Seeker
With more Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterflies ... With more Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterflies being raised at the ABQ BioPark than found in the wild, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is ...
No drama for birthday llama: ABQ llama celebrates 27th ...
ABQnews Seeker
'This llama is bringing everyone together,' ... 'This llama is bringing everyone together,' says family friend
Photos: UNM Lobos men's basketball team take on Air ...
ABQnews Seeker