Monday, August 19, 2019

Where to Eat: Chicken & Waffles...and Much, Much More @ Sweet Chick (NYC & Los Angeles)

The Eats: Chicken & Waffles and other upscale soul food options, all in a laid-back, earthy vibe

The Location: Mid-City in L.A.; Manhattan in NYC

The Vibes: Mid-City – airy, laid-back, trendy  // Manhattan – earthy, cozy, intimate

Good for: Alone, Dates, Groups (small and large), all ages

When-To-Go: Mid-City – Daily, 10/11 a.m. - midnight/2 a.m. // Manhattan – Daily, 10/11 a.m. - 2 a.m. 

The $$ Factor: Cocktails, $13; Entrées, $13 - $21; Starters, $10 - $13

The Names behind the scenes: Investor / Entertainment Mogul Nas and Restaurateur John Seymour

The 4-1-1: While this post specifically only compares the Mid-City and Manhattan locations, there are actually four additional locations worldwide: three more in NYC (Queens, and Brooklyn’s Williamsburg and Prospect Heights) and one in London opening Fall 2019. 

I’ll Be Back…:  For Big Booh’s BBQ Chicken and a sweet corn waffle!

Los Angeles vs. New York City

It’s a timeless battle-of-the-best that’s ingrained in every aspect of life imaginable. 

Musically, can we ever forget the Tupac vs. Biggie debate of the 90’s? Or culturally, the constant comparison of L.A.’s alleged laid-back airs to NYC’s purported uptight, aggressive approach? Even in fashion, NYC is considered to be more conservative than it’s L.A. counterpart, and in everything from museums to the performing arts and more, both cities have no shame claiming they’re better than the other. 

I decided to bring this friendly coast vs. coast competition to the culinary scene, posing a simple question: Sweet Chick’s Mid-City or Manhattan location — which one is the absolute best? 

In case you’re not familiar with the restaurant, here’s a little background for context: initially opening in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg in 2013, three more NYC locations — including Manhattan’s Lower East Side spot — popped up over the years. Sweet Chick expanded into L.A.'s Mid-City neighborhood in 2017, and, there are even plans to open one in London later this year. Entertainment mogul Nas came onboard as a business partner, too, directly involved with the later locations such as Queens and L.A. Across its handful of global locations, Sweet Chick’s serving up glorious chicken & waffles and other soul favorites that have an upscale flair. A heavy rotation of R&B and hip-hop along with a bar offering artistic libations are other staple characteristics. 

Personally, I’ve only been to the Mid-City and Manhattan locations, hence the focus on these two specifically. So here’s a look at what sets them apart — and, what they have in common, too — to determine who comes out on top of this L.A. vs. NYC duel. 

All the feels: The Ambiance 

Both locations fit within one room with high ceilings, hanging market lights, exposed brick, vintage knick-knacks on display and a laid-back appeal. Yet the difference is that L.A.’s location (first photo below) feels bright, open and airy, probably thanks to skylights that emit lots of natural light. Vibes at the Manhattan location (second photo below), on the other hand, feel more cozy, compact and intimate. I also find myself ogling more over the décor — including iron caskets and quirky bird portraits hanging from the walls — here more so than in L.A. However, I also tend to notice the incredible R&B playlist more often than not, at the L.A. location, subconsciously swaying to jams from the 2000s as I sip a cocktail.  This is a tough one, so I’m going to give them both a point on ambiance. 

Manhattan (NYC): 1 // Mid-City (L.A.): 1

When to go: Night vs. Day

I’ll typically visit Manhattan’s Sweet Chick late on a weekday night, while reserving a trip to the Mid-City location for weekend brunch. Like any respectable brunch destination in L.A., it can be hard to get a reservation (especially with a larger group), it’s jam-packed and waits for food can be looonnng. Alternatively in Manhattan, at least on any given weekday night, it’s fairly effortless to grab a spot and food with minimal wait time — even with a decent crowd, (of course, it may be a completely different story at brunch!). For the ease of grabbing a seat and food, the Manhattan spot for weekday dining wins in this category. 

Manhattan (NYC): 1

The food: Brunch vs. Dinner 

Technically, both Sweet Chicks have very similar menus, and both bring out an incredible trio of butters — rosemary, strawberry and plain — with waffles. At brunch, there are six different waffle options, including the classic, bacon’n’cheese, spiced pecan and dried cherry. They can be ordered solo or with fried chicken. But the variety doesn’t stop with dinner options either; in fact, it increases! In addition to these waffles, there are six more specialty chicken and waffle combos. These include Big Booh’s BBQ Chicken with a sweet corn waffle (first photo below), the Nashville Hot Fried Chicken with a milk jam waffle (second photo below) and one in particular I’m curious to try, General Tsao’s Chicken with a rice flour and broccoli waffle. Dinner wins in this category for the plethora of options, but since it’s featured at both locations, both get a point. 

Manhattan (NYC): 1 // Mid-City (L.A.): 1

The libations: L.A. vs. NYC 

Just like with the food options, the cocktails are pretty much the same at both locations. I’ve enjoyed boozy slushies with my brunch as well as classy libations at night. Expect what you'd find at many hip dining establishments these days: a well-thought out, mature cocktail program, creative combinations of ingredients (i.e., Thai chili mezcal mixed with roasted rice vinegar) and cheeky, pun-filled names (i.e., the Side Chick, Christopher Wallace, Purple Drank, etc.). A point for both here, too. 

Manhattan (NYC): 1 // Mid-City (L.A.): 1

The Service: L.A. vs. NYC 

Service at both has been on point, but for some reason, I tend to remember the people who helped me the most at Mid-City…Like the server who patiently answered my group’s gazillion questions without ever looking fazed, just with a nonchalant smile. Or the bartender who addressed my girl friends and I as “Queens” as we sat at the bar. I guess as the saying goes, we are friendlier than New Yorkers right? A point for L.A. 

Manhattan (NYC): 1 

The Tie-breaker – Overall Impression

We’re down to the final category — overall impression — with both Sweet Chicks currently tied with four points each. I had to quickly consider: were there any other aspects I wasn’t taking into consideration? What was my gut feeling saying?? And while clearly it goes without saying in general, the West Coast is the best coast, when I think about overall experience, Manhattan’s Sweet Chick wins the glory. Perhaps it’s because of that uber cozy setting and that NYC is the original home of Sweet Chick, but there’s truly something magical about this space. Manhattan takes the point, coming out victorious in this friendly contest. 

Manhattan (NYC): 1 - WINNER - Manhattan (NYC)

All in all, both are #WilsonsGuide faves and most certainly worth a visit. So the next time you find yourself either in L.A. or NYC, swing by a Sweet Chick. See you there soon!

What’s your fave Sweet Chick to visit? Drop your thoughts in the comments section below! 

For more information: 

Me with a dear friend at the Midtown location 

Me with friends at the Mid-City location

A sample of the postcards given out at each location

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