Waffle Chic Serves Food from the Heart
Until Shamica Evans opened Waffle Chic in 2019, Waco was bereft of a solid chicken-and-waffles joint. Since then, several restaurants and food trucks have begun offering chicken and waffles on their breakfast and brunch menus, but you want to head to Waffle Chic at 901 La Salle Avenue (next to the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce) for the most creative offerings in town, not to mention the inclusive, welcome-to-the-family vibes cultivated by Evans.
Chicken and waffles, a now-classic American staple, have a long history in the US. Chicken fricassee recipes made their way to the American colonies with Puritan settlers, enslaved Africans in the American South began adapting those recipes into more recognizable versions of battered and fried chicken, and the Pennsylvania Dutch introduced a dish of waffles served with stewed chicken in the 17th century (a version of which Evans plans to offer on her menu in the future). In 1938, a restaurant in Harlem called Wells began serving waffles with fried chicken to late-night revelers, and the trend began to take hold.
Salty-Sweet Waffle Treats
Waffle Chic is housed in a cute little aquamarine trailer kitted out with four waffle makers, a deep fryer, and just enough fridge and counter space for Shamica Evans to serve up her signature waffle creations hot off the press. While originally parked in front of Pinewood Coffee, Waffle Chic’s new permanent home is in a lot next to the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on La Salle Avenue, with plenty of parking for hungry guests.
Glance at the menu and you’ll find a perfect spread of savory and sweet offerings to satisfy your cravings and a few smaller-portioned options for kiddos. There isn’t any seating at the new location, but when the weather’s hot, you can eat in your car or take your waffles home—they travel surprisingly well.
Evans will likely be waiting behind the counter with a ready smile, poised to take your order and fire up the waffle press. Everything is made fresh to order, and it’s well worth the slight wait for the hot, savory-sweet delights she conjures in her tiny space.
The waffles, a legacy from Evans’s mother’s and grandmother’s cooking, are soft, lightly spiced, and fluffy, with just a touch of crisp round the edges. In order to make her waffles accessible to everybody, Evans updated her family recipe to make all her waffles both dairy-free and gluten-free, and they lack for nothing. Their pliable texture makes them a perfect bread substitute for her sandwich-style creations, as well as a pillowy vehicle upon which to pile toppings like fresh strawberries, whipped cream, and Nutella.
If you’re in search of a hearty breakfast or lunch, the waffle sliders are a must-have. Two large sliders are crafted out of soft waffle wedges which envelop a waffle-pressed egg, thin strips of salty bacon, crispy chicken tenders, cheddar cheese, and a side of fresh strawberries and blueberries (the fruit rotates depending on what’s in season). Because the egg is cooked in the waffle press, you won’t get that runny, over-easy yolk. But, the moistness of the waffles, the organic maple syrup, and the optional jalapeño jelly provide a perfect stand-in for yolky lubrication, and the whole thing holds together beautifully as you wolf it down.
The brunch babe is another savory standout, with chive eggs and sliced avocado joining the pileup of bacon, tenders, and maple syrup on your waffle. Then there’s the nutty chic (tenders, bacon, pecans, maple syrup), the chic-on-a-stick (a kind of waffle-chicken kabob), and multiple mix-and-match, build-your-own offerings with additional toppings like cookie butter, cream cheese, and toasted coconut. Savvy insiders will play with savory-sweet combos, like bacon, pecan, and toasted coconut, or strawberries, cream cheese, and tenders.
The pretty woman plate is one of the best sweet selections, in part due to its refreshing simplicity. Freshly cut strawberries, pecans, maple syrup, and lemon zest top a full-size waffle, and while it is also served with strawberry cream cheese, you may find it unnecessary. The lemon zest shines through the maple syrup with its characteristic zing, and the combination of sweet, tart, and nutty crunch is both deeply satisfying and surprisingly light on the palate.
Evans has big plans for a rotating waffle of the month menu and eventually, a brick and mortar location. But for now, with limited staff, she has reduced her hours of operation to Wednesdays, Thursdays, and weekends, in order to ensure she has time to rest and time to focus on the business end of things.
“Since the pandemic, everybody’s struggling,” says Evans. “People are struggling to pay rent, so they aren’t going to work for $9 an hour. If you have experience, I can pay $12, and you can work your way up to $15, but I’m not paying myself right now, and that money has to come from somewhere.”
Like many small business owners in Waco, Evans recognizes the $7.25 federal minimum wage isn’t realistic for anyone trying to make ends meet, and she is determined to pay her employees a fair wage, even at the cost of her own salary. But in the long run, she’ll need reliable employees, more customers, and support from the community to keep her dream alive.
The Family Kitchen, Water from the Well
When Evans speaks of her early childhood, one gets a sense of the well-being and togetherness that Evans aims to foster with her Waffle Chic clientele.
“My family was big on getting together and eating together,” says Evans. “We had a family house in Otto, Texas. My papa, my grandmother’s father, was a farmer, and he grew his own vegetables and raised hogs. So we would all sit around together. We had a domino table, a spades table, and we would all play games outside under the shade trees and everybody would bring a dish. All the women were in the kitchen. My grandmother and my momma were fixing chicken and waffles, other aunties were fixing chicken and dressing, and other aunties fixing greens and yams. We were all just a tight-knit family.”
To wash down the family feast, Shamica would pull up fresh water from the family well.
“We had well water, which is the best water in the world. We would take canned goods cans, wash the labels off, and put them in the freezer. And the cans stayed cold for so long, you could go outside and dip that spoon in the well and put the water in that can, and girl, that was the best cold water. And it had no ice!”
In the winter, a wood-burning furnace kept the main rooms of the house warm, and Evans’s papa would sit in his rocking chair by the bed with three or four blankets to keep out the cold.
Evans’s mother, who was raising several children alone in Killeen, was constantly working two or three jobs to support her family in their two-bedroom duplex. (Her entrepreneurial spirit later inspired Evans to open Waffle Chic.) Her mother sold tacos and burritos out of a small cooler to the Killeen community and operated her own jewelry store called Gold Rush.
But when Evans was just sixteen years old, she lost her mother in a car accident. Evans was working at the Harker Heights police station as a file clerk when she heard the news, and her colleagues drove her home in a convoy.
“It was so surreal that day,” Evans recalls with emotion. “I can still see myself sitting in my room and trying to figure out how to tell my sisters. And I didn’t know how my grandmother was going to feel because my mom was her only child. So, on the way to Waco to see my grandmother, it was raining, and I saw a pretty rainbow in the backseat window. And I knew my mom was in heaven. I was crying, and I had these thoughts about whether my mom was going to go to heaven or hell because we were in church real deep. And when I saw that rainbow, God gave me an answer on where she was going to be.”
Evans and her siblings moved in with her grandmother, her auntie, and her auntie’s children in Waco, and Evans took on more familial responsibility as she made her way through school. It was a struggle, and it took its toll.
Evans had various dreams for her future, including becoming a graphic designer, but with no money to pay bills and not enough food stamps to feed the family, she began dancing at local strip clubs. Over the next several years, Evans would attempt to leave the sex industry many times, but it wasn’t until she found herself entangled in sex trafficking that she moved back to Waco and began the long, hard slog of finding alternative ways to support herself.
“I felt so discouraged,” says Evans, “like nothing is ever going to change for me. No matter how hard I work or how good a worker I am, no matter how nice a person I am, it’s just not ever going to change.”
Evans had been boot-strapping for years but felt like she was getting nowhere.
“For black people, the odds against us are so stacked, we don’t feel like we can get out of whatever we’re in,” Evans explains. “No matter how hard you work, no matter how hard you strive to prove yourself and to prove to society—that stigma is just going to stick with you. I felt like it was finally going to be a change after George Floyd. Everybody started waking up. There’s finally going to be a change for African Americans and equality, and not just for black people but for any race out there that has been fighting and struggling. People started supporting black businesses and Black Lives Matter. And then All Lives Matter happened. Well, yes, all lives do matter, but right now we’re talking about black lives.”
Getting steady jobs, finding a bank willing to loan her seed money for her first food trailer—Evans has faced many challenges to get her business up and running. But over time, she has managed to find support, encouragement, and employment within the Waco community. Slowly but surely, she began to realize her dream of serving the best of her family’s home cooking to hungry Wacoans.
She worked with Jesus Said Love (JSL), a nonprofit focused on rehabilitating victims of sex trafficking, and she got a job making crepes at a Magnolia Silos food truck. She enrolled in multiple JSL programs, one of which provided basic entrepreneurship training. She got involved with Jon Passavant and Carole Fergusson at Startup Waco, who worked with her step by step to grow her business. And she received support from the folks at Pinewood Coffee. And while it takes a village, Evans is still running her business more or less single-handedly.
“I work solely by myself. It takes a lot for one person to do. Running the back end of the business, prepping, cooking, moving the truck, running to the grocery store, catching rides to and from. But that’s my determination. That’s why I keep striving because I saw my mom work so hard.”
An employer once called Evans a warrior. Another pointed out that she was always encouraging people. So she put the two together and created a new banner to thrive under: encouraging warrior.
Orange Chicken & Waffles
Heads up Waco insiders, you get first dibs on Evans’s recipe for orange chicken and waffles, a dish she has been working on for a future brick-and-mortar Waffle Chic location. This is Evans’s ode to that Chinese American staple, orange chicken, but with her signature waffle twist. “I love the orange flavor,” says Evans, “and the taste that it brings to my tastebuds,” much of which comes from a whopping (and necessary) half cup of orange zest in the recipe. This is simple fusion at its best, and you’re going to want seconds.
Note: Feel free to use frozen tenders and waffles for this recipe, or purchase waffles and tenders from Waffle Chic to reheat later (they keep well). You can, of course, make your tenders and waffles from scratch, but Evans’s family recipes are a closely-guarded secret.
Recipe serves 4.
2 T sugar
½ tsp cornstarch
½ c orange zest (from 5–7 large oranges)
⅓ c orange juice
1 tsp butter
4 large frozen waffles
8–12 frozen chicken tenders
Heat the waffles and chicken tenders in oven according to package instructions (or you can reheat Evans’s tenders and waffles at home in a 350° F oven for 10 minutes).
To make the sauce, combine the sugar, cornstarch, orange juice, and orange zest in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then bring to a boil and stir for 1–2 minutes or until the mixture thickens to a syrupy consistency. Remove from heat, whisk in butter, pour the hot sauce over chicken and waffles, and enjoy!
When you sidle up to the counter and place your order with Evans, you’ll be greeted like an old friend and fed the best tenders and waffles around.
“I’m going to give you love at my food truck because I want you to feel like we’re family,” says Evans. “That’s how you pass the blessing.”
You can pass that blessing right back to Evans by choosing Waffle Chic for your next meal. Waffle Chic is located next to the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at 901 La Salle Avenue and is currently open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 am to 4 pm. Follow Waffle Chic on social media to find it at weekend markets and events, and stay tuned for when Evans is able to increase her hours of operation. If you’re planning an event or celebration, be sure to inquire about catering.
Learn more about Waco’s local food scene on the Waco Insider podcast Eat, Drink, Repeat, hosted by Angelica Mazé.
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