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Lois the Pie QueenJune 19, 2011

I had a dream this morning before I woke, and it went like this: I was sitting at a table eating chicken and waffles. Oh, delicious, delicious chicken and waffles. Then I woke and spent the next hour thinking about the wonder that is a fried piece of chicken eaten over a waffle. 

Now, it is possible that in your neck of the woods "chicken'n'waffles" is not even a thing. It's a soul food thing, and it's not something I thought I would like when I moved to Oakland fourteen years ago. It sounded weird. Who wants fried chicken for breakfast? Then I had it, and it was good. Savory and sweet, great. But I wasn't IN love with it; it was just nice. But it grows on you, I'm telling you, until one morning you wake up and the first thing you do is start reading Yelp lists to find the best chicken and waffles near you, which is what I did this morning.

There were differences of opinion. Apparently, there are some good SF places, but I think Oakland is really the chicken and waffle hub, so I didn't even consider crossing the bridge. I've always been a Merrit Bakery gal, but it's only mediocre-good there. Roscoe's closed, and the Home of Chicken and Waffles sounded pretty touristy. Brown Sugar is good, but I'm not totally in love with their waffle.

Yelp told me about Lois the Pie Queen.

Let me tell you. You should go to there.(390 Yelp reviews, and 4.5 stars!!)

Lois1

It's tucked away in North Oakland off the main drag of MLK. When you poke your head in, it's just a room, with a good old counter on the left and tables to the right. It's probably as big as our living room area at home (not big). On the left wall are maybe a hundred framed pictures of people eating there (not stars, just real people) for the past sixty-five years it's been serving food.

And it was perhaps the best restaurant experience I've had in years. Maybe ever.

We didn't know how to work it when we got there. It's Father's Day, so there were people waiting outside. I kind of hovered at the door, waiting to catch the hostess's eye, but I didn't see a hostess. I was confused. I'd never not known how to work a restaurant before. Mild panic set in. But then I saw a handsome man with dreads who was pouring coffee and seemed to be in charge, so I walked toward him.

"Hi, we'd like..."

"How many people, baby?" He touched me on the elbow, gently, and his  voice was even softer.

"Two."

"I gotcha, baby."

And I swear, they were the most welcoming words I've ever heard. I couldn't WAIT to sit down.

We got coffee and chatted with people outside (because everyone was in a good mood! They were at Lois the Pie Queen!). We were seated by the owner (of course that's who he was) in the window two-top (because everyone in line was held perfectly in his head -- he seated a TWELVE top in his tiny busy restaurant while we were waiting), and he laughed when I told him how excited I was. Then our server gave us the prettiest, most genuine smile I've ever seen a server give--she seemed genuinely thrilled to be working on such a glorious sunny day.

Lois2

We got the best chicken and waffles I've ever had. The chicken was perfectly cooked, and the crust was just right and very basic, maybe just flour and salt (but not too much salt). The waffle was traditional. Butter and syrup. The coffee was great. The busboys might have been the most good-looking bussers in the history of the universe (like why aren't you in a movie good-looking), and a young boy (maybe ten?) was helping refill coffee and proudly asking each table, "Are you doing okay? Do you need anything?"

And the clientele? Perfectly Oakland, a mix of every race and age, and the sweetest customers were all the new dads -- there were many babies in carriers, all of them cuter than the next.

AND OH MY GOD THE PIE. A Yelp-er pointed out that when one visits a restaurant with a menu choice in its name, you should try that menu choice. So at Lois the Pie Queen, we had to have pie. Yelp had recommended the lemon icebox pie and the key lime pie. They were out of lemon icebox (this was by 11:30 in the morning) but when I mentioned I would want key lime pie (not even on the menu -- how COOL did I feel?) to our server when we ordered, she said she'd put aside a piece for me.

Thank god she did.

It was mind-blowing. I'm not a key lime pie fan, unless it's southern, at a real soul food or BBQ joint, and this was IT. You know how you eat something and eat it, and you kind of get used to it? So the first bite is the best, and then the other bites are quite good? This was one of those things where every bite was like the first bite, with an amazing blend of just-right tart and oh-my-god sweet that made me wish I never had to eat anything else, ever.

When we left, I thanked the owner and we hugged. He kissed my cheek. I felt anointed. We left the restaurant, stumbling, drunk on happiness.

And I'm not quite sure everyone would have this experience, which makes me even more happy that we had it. Some people would say, "Where's my mocha?" or "Do you have lite maple syrup?" or "They should redo this room." To them I say, you are missing the point, and if you're not at Lois the Pie Queen, there is more pie for me.

Comments

That sounds like an amazing place and makes me want to visit Oakland, instead of SF. In these parts (Virginia), chicken (or duck) and waffles is *dinner*, not breakfast. And it's still amazingly good.

It sounds like you had the perfect Sunday morning!

this post makes me so nostalgic for that part of Oakland and for Lois the Pie Queen. It's been over 17 years that I've been away and reading your experience there snapped me right back.

I even lived with a gal that had a cat named Lois the Pie Queen in the early 90's.

I miss the cultural diversity of North Oakland.

I lived on Shattuck ave just two doors up from La Pena and eating there was a weekly occurrence.

makes me homesick - this arizona desert withers my heart.

Try the peach next time. One of my favorites.

That sounds amazing. Chicken and waffles is definitely NOT a thing here in MA but I just know I'd love it! And I know what you mean about the pie. That's the way I felt about the lemon meringue pie I had at the Eveready Diner last April.

Never had chicken-n-waffles that way....my mom made it with chicken or turkey gravy...loved it! Most people think I am nuts. I also loooove turkey manhattan with "real" turkey, real mashed potatoes and...crispy toast. No soggy bread for me!

That was the best foodie declaration of love that I have ever read. It makes me want to buy a ticket to Oakland just to have what I would normally consider to be a most disgusting meal by normal standards... and now, now I must find a chicken and waffle restaurant in Florida!

Missed you this past week - what a way to say "hello" again!

I've been following your blog for a while now, and I loved this post! I especially loved the end about enjoying the place for exactly what it is. That's the great thing a place like that. You make me want to visit that place, all the way from Minnesota!

Man, it's posts like this one that really make me miss Oakland. I miss Lois the Pie Queen (I can't believe you waited this long to eat there!), and I miss all the other awesome little joints there. And I miss the perfect taqueria around the corner from my old apartment near the lake...

I love this post! Finding a place like this that's authentic and fabulous and perfect-as-it-is...transcendent! I'm going as soon as I can scrape a few hours together.

Oh man... I wonder if I can get the hubby convinced that we need to make a cross country trip just to visit this place? I LOVE Key lime pie! And though I've never had chicken and waffles I like both very much and am sure I'd adore them together.

Oh Lois! I've live din Oakland almost my whole life and I still haven't been there. Need to rectify that right quick!

Best post ever to read while sneaking a break and hiding from the deadline that's breathing down your neck. . .

Sounds like a great place, loved your account. The fair is coming soon and they have Chicken and Waffles, I'll have to give it a try this time!

thank you for sharing this wonderful find. i will have to try it - and soon. have you ever gone to brown sugar kitchen in oakland? lovely food, smoky mashed yams. Missing the warm-hearted hollywood-faced cast you describe, but the waffles are lighter than air...

love your writing. love your sweaters. appreciate how generously you share your heart on this blog.

Oh that sounds amazing! Now I want to eat chicken and waffles from Lois the Pie Queen. Next time you are there, please enjoy it for me as well. Hope all is well, Rachael!

I've never had chicken and waffles, together that is. Sounds like something I'd eat though. And who can't love a place called "Lois the Pie Queen?" I mean, just the word Pie alone makes me want to go there.

I've never had chicken with waffles. Mostly because I live in Ohio. And it probably doesn't help that when I eat both of those things I always make them myself.

Still sounds good though. I should try this, but by the time that I make all of that I wouldn't be hungary.

Lois The Pie Queen....I LOVE it when you give me the perfect walk down memory lane. I have always experienced great food, and very interesting folks there. I especially love Sunday with the "after church" grandmothers in hats! Love me some Oakland.

It never occurred to me that you could get chicken and waffles anywhere except the South! Lois the Pie Queen sounds wonderful!

My goodness. I don't even eat any of those things and yet now I want it all.

Oh, I'd forgotten how much I love this place. I used to stop in all the time during tax season when it was on the route between the tax office in Berkeley and my house in Oakland. Sounds like it's time for us East Bay girls to get together for a meet and greet field trip.

I have to say that even though chicken and waffles would probably kill me (or at least make me wish that I was dead), that does look quite appetizing.

Mmmm...there are a few places that do chicken and waffles here in LA, but I haven't found anything that sounds that good! Plus, I think the next litter of foster kittens will have to be named after chicken and waffle joints. We'll have a Lois and a Roscoe, and you'll have to keep checking out restaurants for more good names :)

What a lovely reminder of how simple human gestures ("When we left, I thanked the owner and we hugged. He kissed my cheek. I felt anointed.")can transform us.

Thanks again for another gorgeous post!

Lois is the best! You must go back sometime for the lemon ice box pie--I saw god the first tiem I ate that pie...

Chicken... and waffles? I'm just so confused.
(Sounds like a fantastic place, but... I can't get past that combo.)

Buss-ers? Really? Were they cute? (Get out the good dictionary, doll.) Sounds like I really must try that restaurant someday.

That place sounds like heaven!!

I wish I was there! My sweetie is in the area on business so I'll send him the link.
When you're in Portland, try Pine State Biscuits,
http://pinestatebiscuits.com/ ,
no waffles, but they do the fried chicken with biscuits.

I've never tried chicken and waffles, but I'd be willing to try it. And the pie sounds amazing.

We just spent the weekend in Eugene @ Black Sheep Gathering, usually one of the high points of my gustatorial calendar, but you have made me jealous. Jealous and hungry. I was heartbroken Roscoe's closed before I could talk my Irish DH into going, but after going in SoCal, I will now drag him to your neck of the woods for soul fulfillment. Thank you for taking the leap and also letting us in on the secret. <3

THIS is why you are a published author and I have about 5 readers of my blog. Beautiful. And I WANT THAT KEY LIME PIE!

This is the first time I regretted choosing Smith over Mills. If only I knew 18 years ago!

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Rachael loves it when book clubs read her work! She's happy to attend book clubs that read her books either in person or via Skype. Contact her at [email protected] to make arrangements.

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