Runny yolk, melted cheese, and syrup make for a messy sandwich.
1136 Garnet Ave., San Diego
It’s admittedly been a few years since I stumbled out of a Pacific Beach bar in search of something heavy to quench an inebriated late-night hunger. But if I were looking to stave off a hangover with something that might glide through my parched system with the ease and comfort only southern staples can provide, I might have found a new one in Rhythm's Chicken and Waffles.
A bright red beacon for the hungry in Pacific Beach
Having recently taken up residence in a kitchen-equipped shack on Garnet Avenue, the hole-in-the-wall eatery is the brick and mortar successor to the food truck Rhythm's American Cuisine. Rhythm’s has painted it bright red, and brought along its singular street food specialty: “the original chicken and waffle sandwich.”
This takes the bones out of the classic soul food pairing to create something one could, in theory, eat while walking. Except Rhythm's takes the concept to its logical extreme. The fried chicken gets dipped in syrup, and slapped on waffles that sport bacon and melted cheddar cheese. So it’s sticky and goopy from the get-go, and that’s before considering the fried egg. Technically, this is a separate sandwich, subbed the chicken sunrise , but who are we kidding? There was never any chance I wasn’t going to get the egg option, even if its runny yolk makes this an extra messy affair.
It highlights the sandwich’s versatility, from a time of day standpoint. You could snag it as a late breakfast (the shack here opens at 11am, and two hours earlier on Sundays), or show up for the late night eats, since the shop serves food til 2 am on Fridays and Saturdays.
I tackled it in the early afternoon, and in the sober light of day it doesn’t look remotely healthy, although it does look delicious. I might enjoy it better drunk, as bacon crispness is a concern, as is that of the fried chicken batter. Though nicely seasoned, that syrupy dip undercuts a bit of the crunch. Having the egg on there helped, but I would recommend asking for syrup on the side all the same. It’s not exactly genuine maple being used here, and to my thinking the sugary syrup doesn’t add enough to justify the potential loss of texture, especially as the chewy sweetness of the waffles (a.k.a. bread) offers all the sweet and savory balance of flavor the dish requires.
Better yet, skip the syrupy original sandwiches and tackle more lunchable fare: The OC sandwich keeps it cleaner with fried chicken, lettuce, tomato, and pickles; a spicy version offers the same but with sriracha mayo. That you might get away eating without needing to dig into Rhythm’s stash of handiwipes.