Which Theme Park Serves the Best Chicken and Waffle Sandwich?

November 24, 2015, 10:42 AM · Once simply the King of All Hangover Remedies, chicken and waffles have made their way on to major theme park menus in the forms of sandwiches. But which park serves the best chicken-and-waffle sandwich? We tried three of the most popular options to find out.

Let's just go ahead and spoil the ending by telling you that there's no clear winner here. Each of the three chicken-and-waffle sandwiches we tried excelled in some areas... and fell short in others. Which 'which you prefer will come down to whether you prefer taste or convenience, and whether you prefer a sweet or spicy flavor to your sandwich.

For those of you unfamiliar with the marriage of hearty fried chicken with tasty waffles, here is Southern California's gold standard — from Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles.

As you can see, this is a sit-down meal. You've got one enormous, freshly pressed waffle, with a hint on cinnamon in the batter, paired with two pieces of delicious fried chicken. Personally, I'd take Roscoe's fried chicken over Mrs. Knott's or even Disneyland's Plaza Inn. (But I am eagerly awaiting the debut of the refurbished Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant at Knott's Berry Farm next year. I will need to collect more data to test my hypothesis, you know. Science!)

While fried chicken and Mickey waffles have shown up at the Plaza Inn as a special-event dish, Southern Californians can find chicken and waffles in a theme park year-'round at Universal Studios Hollywood. The Chicken & Waffle Sandwich from Cletus' Chicken Shack features a fried chicken breast in between two waffles, served with lettuce, tomato, and maple mayo sauce. Universal also delivers cole slaw and spicy krinkle fries on the side, for $11.99.

The Pros: Universal Studios Hollywood's sandwich offers the best waffles of the three — two fresh Belgian-style waffles that could stand on their own as breakfast, or an indulgent snack. The USH sandwich also included the most chicken of any of the sandwiches we tried — more than I could finish. And Universal's sweet and sticky maple mayo manages to call back to the classic syrup-drenched flavor of a traditional chicken and waffle meal while also reminding you that this is, in fact, a sandwich.

The Cons: What the heck are lettuce and tomato doing on a chicken-and-waffle sandwich? That's a salad — something far too healthy to be associated with a pairing as decadent as chicken and waffles. Like one should do with a salad, I tossed it.

But the big problem here — and I mean that literally — is those waffles. Yeah, they taste great, but they're just too darn tall for anyone with a mouth smaller than Mick Jagger's to eat this as a sandwich. I ended up deconstructing the whole thing and eating it as a traditional chicken in waffles meal, with the waffles on the side. Delicious, yes, but not a sandwich.

Last week in Orlando, I tried the east coast version of Cletus' Chicken & Waffle Sandwich, and found something somewhat different.

In Orlando, two thinner, rounded waffles replace the deep Belgian-style waffles from Hollywood. Like the rest of the sandwich's ingredients, the waffles were sitting out under a heat lamp on the counter, awaiting your order. (In Hollywood, orders are assembled in the kitchen before being delivered to the counter, like a more traditional quick-service restaurant.) The Orlando chicken breast seemed smaller than Hollywood's too. And there was about half as much lettuce, tomato, and maple mayo on this version of the sandwich. Orlando's also substituted tater tots for the krinkle fries, and skipped the cole slaw entirely. The Orlando version costs a buck less, going for $10.99.

The Pros: Thanks to the thinner pair of waffles, this was the only sandwich of the three that I would consider a true sandwich that could be eaten like a sandwich. Plus, what I said above about the maple mayo.

The Cons: Easily the least impressive waffles of the three. Sitting out under the heat lamp, these waffles just weren't as crispy as those on the other sandwiches. And we're gilding the lily with any side dishes here, but I preferred the combo of the cole slaw and spicy krinkle fries in Hollywood to Orlando's tots.

And now, for something completely different, let's head over to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom for the Sweet and Spicy Chicken Specialty Waffle Sandwich at Sleep Hollow Refreshments.

For $7.49, you get a fried chicken breast served a top a folded waffle, bathed in a sweet and spicy sauce and dressed with argula and cole slaw. No side dishes here.

The Pros: If you're looking for a spicier option, Disney's chicken-and-waffle sandwich delivers more flavor than the Universal sandwiches. With a different taste profile, the argula and cole slaw don't seem out of place here, accompanying the spicy chicken well, instead of distracting from it. Plus, this is the only one of the three locations where you can see your waffle being made fresh for you.

The Cons: Freshly made waffles mean looooong waits at this wildly popular quick-service window. And while this is a sandwich competition, the single folded waffle makes it seem more like you're eating some weird class of giant taco instead of a sandwich. That said, the sauce and cole slaw eventually conspired to split the waffle at the fold, creating two halves and a more traditional sandwich. This was the smaller chicken breast of the three, as well. Finally, if you are hankering for the traditional taste of maple-slathered chicken and waffles, this is not the sandwich you seek, as tasty as it might be on its own terms.

So there you go. Want traditional chicken and waffle flavor? Choose Hollywood. Want the convenience of a sandwich? Universal Studios Florida has you covered. Want a different, spicy take on the classic? Head to Disney.

Then head to comments to tell us which sandwich you prefer.

Replies (13)

November 24, 2015 at 11:01 AM · *immediately drives to roscoe's*
November 24, 2015 at 11:30 AM · I enjoyed Orlando's Cletus' Chicken & Waffle Sandwich, but Sleepy Hollow's version surpasses it, for sure. I think the sweet and spicy elements of the chicken pair incredibly well with the the arugula and slaw. But as good as I think that sandwich is, it pales in comparison to Sleepy Hollow's other fantastic offering, the Ham, Prosciutto, and Swiss waffle sandwich, which is one of the best things I've ever eaten in a theme park.
November 24, 2015 at 11:39 AM · What I passionately (and honestly) love about this site is that the coverage goes from an inspiring and intellectually-rigorous discussion of hope & optimism in theme park design to a full essay comparing chicken and waffle sandwiches with barely a pause for breath. God bless TPI.
November 24, 2015 at 11:43 AM · Had the Cletus Orlando version and wasn't terribly impressed (the waffles were one step above Eggo quality), but that Hollywood version looks amazing. The Magic Kingdom one looks a little too dry and spicy for me.
November 24, 2015 at 12:22 PM · Never had Chicken and Waffles together before, but now I really want to try it out. Sadly it seems I have to go to California to find the best.
November 24, 2015 at 1:50 PM · Ditto what Mr. Mills expressed above. Since ESPN axed GRANTLAND.com, where else can discerning readers find civil, thoughtful discourse on such a wide range of subjects? And damn you for making me even hungrier than I already was. I hope your tasting tour gave you nightmares of eating at the Tomorrowland Terrace in the '80s!
November 24, 2015 at 1:54 PM · This is a great example of the journey being better than the destination..... I'd love to eat all of those
November 24, 2015 at 2:14 PM · If only my hospitality pass wasn't blacked out until the end of the year...:( I would be right over at Sleepy Hollow, that sandwich is calling my name...LOL
November 24, 2015 at 3:55 PM · There was a great Buffalo Chicken and Waffles at Animal Kingdom when I was there last year during the holidays. It's at the cart called "Trilo-Bites" at the entrance to Dinoland.
November 25, 2015 at 12:20 AM · Robert I remember when you first reviewed the chicken and waffle sandwich at Sleepy Hallow and I was so glad you did! I wrote it down in my trip notes and went as soon as I had the opportunity! My family thought I was crazy to change up our plans that day to get a sandwich but it was so worth it!!! I've only been able to experience it twice. I don't think I'll be to Disney again until 2017 or 2018 so it better still be there. The Cletus version at UOR disappointed me greatly after having the other one. I wish the Hollywood version would come to Orlando because that one seems more on par with Disney. I'm so tempted to get a plane ticket and "head" over to Sleepy Hallow right now! It sounds like a good idea since it's only 32 degrees in Wisconsin right now!
November 25, 2015 at 12:54 PM · Oh man...Sleepy Hollow all the way!!! So good!
November 26, 2015 at 4:32 AM · Robert, if you need someone impartial from the UK to pop over and sample any of these again for you, just say the word. I will sacrifice for you :-)

Happy Thanksgiving!!

November 26, 2015 at 11:10 AM · Damnit, Robert, I just are lunch and now I'm hungry again!

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