They're big hits in New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta. But even though there's a reference to a Baltimore chicken-and-waffle house in Broadway's smash musical Hairspray - which takes place in the early 1960s - one such eatery has only recently come to Charm City.
(And, no, Baltimore filmmaker John Waters did not make that historical mistake in the movie Hairspray).
ShamDanai's Chicken-n-Waffle House opened Mother's Day at 4701-03 Eastern Ave., in the spot previously occupied by Costa's European Pastries.
"In the heart of Greektown," says co-owner Danielle Hodges as she chuckles. "It's the only African-American restaurant here."
ShamDanai's name combines the first names of Hodges and her husband, Sham, the restaurant's co-owner.
Here's what Hodges says you need to know: You don't order chicken or waffles, you get them together. A homemade waffle with your favorite syrup or topping comes on the same plate with chicken - fried, baked or smothered in gravy.
Because this is Baltimore, ShamDanai's choices include lake trout or catfish. The menu also includes a selection of sandwiches and burgers, as well as chicken, lake trout, catfish, baby-back ribs and buffalo wings served with two side orders, such as baked macaroni, collard greens and candied yams.
Hodges says that none of the recipes that she and her husband use includes anything canned or frozen.
"I feel like I'm cooking Thanksgiving dinner daily," she says with a smile.
ShamDanai's prices should put a smile on any customer's face: Prices range from $2.25 to $9.50.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.
The chicken-and-waffle restaurant is not the only new dining-out first for Baltimore. We now also have a Lebanese restaurant. The Carlyle Club just opened last week in the Carlyle Building at 500 W. University Parkway - where Preston's used to be.
The Carlyle Club's owner is Kehar Singh, who also owns the Ambassador Dining Room, the popular Indian restaurant that's nearby.
Why a Lebanese restaurant?
"We took a poll and asked our guests [at the Ambassador] what kind of restaurant they'd like in the neighborhood," Singh says. "They told us Lebanese/Middle Eastern."
The choice of cuisine also was helped by the fact that some of Singh's in-laws are Lebanese. His wife's Lebanese cousin, Joseph Haddad, is the chef. And other members on that side of the family also work in the kitchen.
Everything is served as little dishes, almost tapas-style. Dishes range from hummus for $4.95 to lamb shank for $14.95. In between are dishes such as spinach pie ($5.95), New England scallops wrapped in sesame seeds and seared ($9.95), and kebabs - lamb, chicken, shrimp or beef (all about $12).
Desserts include baklava and kaifti, a kind of shredded wheat wrapped in walnuts and pecans. Both are $3.95.
The Carlyle Club's hours are 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
Break out the lederhosen. DeGroen's Grill, 108 Albemarle St., is holding an Oktoberfest Saturday from noon till midnight. You can enjoy beer in a tented garden, music by two bands - the Townsman and the Harbor - and, of course, lots of German food, including bratwurst, spaetzle and sauerbraten.
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