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27 Catt. 2: In re Capital Chicken & Waffles

2014 January 15

CATTLEYA, J., delivered the opinion of the Cart, in which JEREMY, C.J., concurred.

This month, exactly one year ago, classic and comforting fare came to Washington, D.C. courtesy of Capital Chicken & Waffles (“CCW”). I speak, of course, of chicken and waffles. On a very cold winter day—the sort of day when only comfort food could warm you up—the Justices of this Cart turned to CCW to do just that.

Capital Chicken & Waffles

Capital Chicken & Waffles

Thus far, comfort food has had a bumpy ride on the streets of the nation’s capital. The Peanut Butter Jelly Time truck, for example, closed just after two months of business. More recently, the macaroni-and-cheese-making CapMac closed after three years last November, though the truck plans to reopen this year under new ownership. The history of comfort food trucks before this tribunal is perhaps even bumpier. CapMac’s Classic CapMac’n Cheese was the first dish that this court ever remanded for revision. See In re CapMac, 1 Catt. 1 (2011). Then, not one but two versions of the classic grilled cheese from the Big Cheese truck were remanded by the Chief Justice. See In re Big Cheese, 6 Catt. 2 (2012).

This should not be interpreted to mean that we Justices dislike comfort food. For my part, I am incapable of saying no to chicken fried steak with sausage gravy. And while the regular reader might think that the Chief Justice’s tastes are too highbrow for classic comfort food, many a times we met over corned beef hash when we first crossed paths in law school all those years ago. No, we have no aversion to comfort food. How could we when we have dedicated our life’s work to food and the justness of its preparation?

That being said, it does not need to be said that we approached CCW with eagerness (but, look, I have said it anyway). Although CCW offers other comfort food fare like chili, we Justices went for and wanted nothing but chicken and waffles. Upon walking up to CCW’s menu board, however, we encountered an unexpected delay in getting what we wanted. The words “chicken and waffles” were confusingly absent from the menu. Instead, the menu spoke of a “Classic Combo,” a “Boat Combo,” and a “Meal Combo.” One might argue that the words need not appear on the menu, as they are in the truck’s name. (I note that this argument would not entirely satisfy because, on the flip side, “fish sandwich” and the aforementioned chili appear on the menu, but they are not in the truck’s name.)

Without any descriptions of the combos, we (i.e., first-timers) could not make an informed meal selection. After some discussion with CCW’s fine staff, we learned that a Boat Combo offered a smaller portion of chicken and waffles than a Classic Combo, and a Meal Combo was a Classic Combo but with the addition of two sides and a drink. I imagine from the staff’s speedy response that we were not the first to ask about the differences between the combos. I would suggest, if only to save the staff the trouble of answering the same question daily, that CCW might want to explain on the menu board exactly what comes with each combo (e.g., how many pieces of chicken).

Boat Combo

Boat Combo

We opted for a Boat Combo ($6.39 plus sales tax), which consisted of three pieces of chicken over a long, oval-shaped waffle. Because chicken and waffles are not “street food” under our jurisprudence, no presumption in favor of CCW’s chicken and waffles arises and CCW bears the burden to prove the merits of its offering. See In re Eat Wonky, 2 Catt. 5 (2011) (defining street food); In re Big Cheese, 6 Catt. 2 (2012) (discussing burden of proof).

Let’s start with the chicken. The fried chicken in CCW’s chicken and waffles were of the boneless strip variety, and not of the breast/wing/thigh/leg variety. Although the chicken strips were underseasoned, generous applications of our accompanying sauce (we chose honey mustard) hid this oversight. Less easy to ignore was the thin breading on the chicken. CCW didn’t quite achieve the crisp, bite-worthy exterior that one looks for when eating battered, deep fried chicken.

Textural issues were experienced with the waffle as well. Although we topped the waffle with a generous amount of maple syrup, the waffle, unfortunately, was soft and somehow soggy before we added the syrup. Part of the issue seemed structural — the long, oval-shaped waffle boat did not maximize its number of potential pockets (each pocket ran the length of a full row of the waffle boat). Thus, CCW’s waffle boat did not maximize its potential for wonderfully crisp surface space. For the eater who likes her waffles to be soft in the center and crispy on the outside, with pockets and pockets to be filled up with maple syrup, CCW’s waffle boat missed the mark.

To be clear, CCW’s chicken and waffles weren’t bad. They were edible, more than edible, and indeed, we ate it all. CCW’s version just wasn’t that great. It felt less like homecooked food and more like reheated food, less like mom and pop shop and more like IHOP.

REMANDED to Capital Chicken & Waffles for revision.


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