You may not have grown up with Chicken and Waffles as a childhood comfort food staple. If you did, you’re already salivating at the mention of Lexington Market’s newest food spot: Connie’s Chicken and Waffles. This family-run eatery is serving up plates of golden-brown deliciousness just like Mom used to make. That’s no exaggeration. Brother owners Khari and Shawn Parker chose to name their first restaurant after their mother, Connie. She also happens to be the lady who greets me at the counter.
Connie, Khari, and Shawn hail from East Baltimore. Connie spent 41 years working for Baltimore Gas and Electric. The brothers attended Baltimore public schools, and have backgrounds in IT, personal finance, customer service, and a variety of community-focused efforts. When Shawn and Khari told their mother they’d be opening a chicken and waffle spot in Lexington Market, she was happy. When they told her it would be named in her honor, and asked her to quit her job to take part, she was overwhelmed.
“It doesn’t feel like work,” glows Connie, pausing from our interview occasionally to greet regulars, friends, and relatives. “When they told me they wanted me to work here….I never, ever ever, expected something like this!” A line starts to form, and Connie returns to the register. The brothers disappear into the kitchen. Sizzling ensues.
Having met the family, it’s time to stuff my face. The first thing you’ve got to understand: every meal is made fresh to order. You won’t see any food warmers or leftover wings from the lunch rush. Khari and Shawn make each wing, tender, and waffle from scratch, and the results hit the counter steaming.
When asked to offer up a chicken tip for the people back home, Khari thinks for a minute. “We believe in pre-seasoning the chicken for flavor, before it’s breaded or fried.” He also emphasizes the importance of quality ingredients. Every dish on their small menu is made from organic whole foods, sourced as locally as possible. The result (from personal experience) is a chicken tender that demands to be gobbled, and a waffle known to make men weep. I had my tenders on a cinnamon waffle, with maple syrup, whipped cream, and sweet apples. Words fail when such delicious food is served with love, but suffice to say, it tasted good. Really, really good.
Connie is glad to see me enjoy that first bite. Asked if her sons make chicken and waffles as good as hers, she replies, “Oh yes, their methods are very good. But they’ve got to. My name’s on the sign! It’s like I told them when they were kids, ‘If it’s not perfect, throw it away!’”
That’s high praise, and a high standard. Fortunately Connie’s Chicken and Waffles exceeds expectations on all counts. Connie’s is easy to find, visible from Lexington Market’s Paca and Eutaw Street entrances. Stop by whether you’re a Market regular or a newbie to Baltimore’s food scene. The price, flavor, and experience of authentic hospitality can not be beat. Just make sure you order enough to share.