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Al’s Chicken and Waffles exudes Southern charm

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Make time for the well-seasoned, naked-fried chicken at Al’s. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Make time for the well-seasoned, naked-fried chicken at Al’s.
Al’s Chicken and Waffles has earned a loyal following in the three months it’s been open, occupying the former Pie Five space in Citadel Crossing.

“A lot of customers who come in say that this is what the Springs has needed,” says general manager Cheryl Cole. She and her husband Antonio handle all the day-to-day operations, though it’s owned by her grandfather, Albert Garrett. He’s a retired Army veteran, and after he got out of the military, he wanted to open a restaurant. The Coles found a location, designed a business plan and left their home in Omaha, Nebraska, to open Al’s in the Springs. As for the concept, Cheryl says she saw a niche to be filled.

“There are places that serve chicken and waffles, but there’s not a lot of Southern-style restaurants in Colorado,” she says. And while the Springs has a few Southern and soul food spots, to say nothing of Denver, it’s true here that most of the chicken and waffles plates come from the city’s eclectic fusion eateries.

Down to details, the chicken here’s fried naked, like hot wings. On both of our visits, it’s fried to order, too. Post-fry, each piece gets coated with a secret seasoning blend that Cole says includes onion powder, granulated garlic and Cajun seasoning. And across two meals, the chicken sure isn’t lacking for salt, but with the juicy, tender meat and the crisp skin, it plays. Of note, at Al’s, a wing means all three parts, from meaty joint to tip, a fine thing indeed.
Location Details Al’s Chicken and Waffles
721 N. Academy Blvd.
Academy (North)
Colorado Springs, CO
344-9652
11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday.
Southern
Beyond a 12-piece basket, a mere $18, and a three-piece plate with waffle and two sides, $12 for dark meat or $13 for light, we try a chicken schnitzel plate, also $13 with waffle and two sides. The half-centimeter-thick cutlet’s been coated in bread crumbs and plenty of black pepper, good on its own and better with hot sauce — at day’s end, what isn’t?

Al’s waffles are heavier than many we’ve had, more diner than Belgian crisp and airy, with wells too shallow to hold huge amounts of syrup. But with a little butter, a little syrup and a bite of fried chicken, they fit the role they need to.

Launching into sides, we bypass breakfast eggs, bacon and sausage for home fries, finding greasy bliss. The little cubes of starch play nice with near-blackened bits of onion and bell pepper, with plenty of salt. To wax bucolic, if there’s a diner in the next life, there’s potatoes like these on the side of every plate. Grits come creamy, but unseasoned.

For full-on Southern sides, the mac and cheese comes in a thick, cheesy sauce with plenty of pepper and a nice little tang besides, one of the standouts on both visits. Collard greens bear a salty, porky goodness, and my Alabaman dining companion gives his seal of approval. For dessert, side yams come in a sugary sauce with plenty of baking spice, ginger reading particularly strong. It’s sweeter by a noticeable measure than the sweet potato pie on the dessert menu, which itself tastes like a graham cracker in its pleasant pastry crust.

All told, it seems the Coles have made Garret’s dream come true, and they haven’t skimped on the flavor to do it, either.

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