By Laurie Paolicelli
Chapel Hill, meet Dame Moore and Randy Wadsworth; Dame and Randy, Chapel Hill. They are the founders and owners of Dame’s Chicken and Waffles. Dame’s has opened in the heart of Chapel Hill in the location that formerly housed Biski’s Restaurant, and our only question is why it has taken so long. Dame’s is a perfect match for Chapel Hill and Franklin Street.
Dame’s first opened in Durham in 2010. After gaining success in the Research Triangle Region, Moore and Wadsworth decided to open two other locations, one in Greensboro and the other in Cary. Although the new location is adjusting to the “new normal” of opening during COVID-19, owners invite all locals and visitors to come to Franklin Street and check out their signature waffle and chicken and Schmear dishes.
Chicken and waffles is a Southern delicacy that on the wheels of its deliciousness has traveled across the country, eventually becoming a part of the culinary history of Harlem in the 1930s and ’40s. But make no mistake: it commenced in the South.
Dame’s Chicken and Waffles got its start as Blue Mountain Catering in 2010, open just a few days each week. As demand grew, owners Damion “Dame” Moore and Randy Wadsworth closed down the catering kitchen for a few months to rebrand and open the restaurant. At first, they served only ten “chicken inspirations.” The menu has expanded since then in marvelous ways.
They honor an early history of chicken & waffles and the Harlem jazz clubs where they gained so much popularity, serving a similar sweet and savory combination. The décor lends a nod to jazz greats, as does the music playing in the restaurant.
Randy’s wife, Beth, is the inspiration behind the waffle recipe. She tweaked her family’s formula to develop different flavors using fresh ingredients. This serves as the base for all of the chicken and waffle inspirations.
Today, the ten original combinations are still on the menu, though restaurant-goers can mix and match to create their own perfect bite. The most popular is the “What a Classy Hen” Inspiration, a chicken cutlet served with a classic waffle and the vanilla and almond shmear. Drizzle with maple syrup or a bit of hot sauce (or both) for a perfectly sweet and savory dish.
But back up: what’s a schmear?
Some may not know what a schmear is or even how to spell it. That’s understandable: it’s not a southern idiom or even an Anglo-Saxon word, originally. It comes from Yiddish, where it once referred specifically to cheese, but now can be applied almost anything that can be spread, like butter or cream cheese. Now you know!
There are seven different shmears at Dame’s. Each is made of whipped butter with its own fresh feature. So many to choose from! Strawberry-crème, Chocolate-Hazelnut, Blueberry, Vanilla-Almond, Orange-Honeycomb, and Peach-Apricot, but the most popular is the Maple-Pecan. Peach-Apricot comes in second.
And there is so much more. Some of the mouth-watering southern and comfort foods available include: the world-famous waffles, fried chicken, blackened salmon, smooth grits, eggs, mac and cheese, potato salad, spicy collard greens…
“One of the things we have been very mindful of is to really bring home the integrity and the history of the food,” Moore says, “and how it reflects so much history.”
That’s what distinguishes Dame’s and is part and parcel of its allure: the food is amazing and true to the spirit of its creation. That’s why we’re so happy that they’ve come to Chapel Hill. Foodies will love it but so will anyone who follows that essential need for chicken and waffles with a shmear of maple-pecan whipped butter.
There have been some pandemic-related bumps in the road as they open, but they’ve benefited by the support of everyone who wants them here and wants to see them prosper. “We have been blessed to have the Chapel Hill/Carrboro community supporting us the way they have,” Wadsworth says. “It’s hard to put into words just the way that the community has come out to support Dame’s Chicken and Waffles to keep us here.”
We get that. It’s hard to put into words how happy we are to have you here. Chapel Hill and Dame’s go together like chicken and waffles, a perfect pair.
Chapel Hill Hours as of June 2021:
- Monday: 11 AM – 3 PM
- Tuesday: 11 AM – 3 PM
- Wednesday: 11 AM – 8 PM
- Thursday: 11 AM – 8 PM
- Friday: 11 AM – 8 PM
- Saturday: 10 AM – 8 PM
- Sunday: Closed
Dame’s Chicken and Waffles is now open on Franklin Street and for more information you can visit Dame’s Chicken and Waffles website.
Laurie Paolicelli is the Executive Director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.
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