Monday, July 9, 2007

Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles
Can Grease Bring Peace?

I regularly travel to Los Angeles on business, God help me. And no foray to LA is complete without a pilgrimage to the world renowned Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles. This may sound like an odd pairing to the soul food novice. I myself have wondered if Mr. Roscoe tried other combinations: Turkey & Pancakes? Ham & Bagels? Chorizo & Biscotti? But there’s nothing quite like Chicken & Waffles. If you’ve never had the pleasure, treat yourself. It will change you.

Once, on a three day trip to LA, I ate at Roscoe's four times. While back to back meals of fried chicken, waffles slathered in butter and maple syrup, with a side of collard greens, potato salad, a slice of sweet potato pie for dessert, washed down with a glass of sweet iced tea are not good for the waist line, it is good for the soul. It's comfort food, and in LA I need a lot of comforting.

Going to LA is like going to work in a big crazy office with back stabbing co-workers and ego maniacal bosses, where the rules and allegiances change faster than a game of musical chairs played in Dante’s "Inferno." At the end of the day, all I want to do is go home, but when home is a five-hour plane ride away, the next best thing is Roscoe’s.

On my most recent sojourn, I went to the Roscoe’s on Sunset and Gower. The Gods were smiling. The planets were aligned. The Force was with me. I found a parking spot close by and the meter was broken. Happiness is free on-street parking. The timing was perfect. I walked in, quickly got a table and chowed down with giddy abandon.

I later learned that the week before my visit, Cuba Gooding, Jr., also went to the Roscoe's on Sunset and Gower. He was getting some take out for his family. (Yes, that's the kind of town LA is. Even an Oscar can’t get you a table at Roscoe’s when it’s busy. And, no, they don’t deliver.) While Cuba was there waiting for his order, a young man was shot right in front of the restaurant. News reports were unclear as to whether or not this young man was trying to cut the line. The quick thinking Cuba went to the victim's aid and stayed with him until the paramedics arrived, presumably to pick up their order as well.

I was shocked. This was an unconscionable act of heresy. LA is known for gang violence, but Roscoe's is a safe space; a cross between the Romulan Neutral Zone and Las Vegas. Whatever happens at Roscoe's, stays at Roscoe's. I mean really; thugs gotta eat too.

But Roscoe’s isn’t just a place to eat, it’s also a symbol of unity. It brings together elements of dinner and breakfast, making a meal that anybody can enjoy at anytime. Therefore it’s the place where crips and bloods, celebrities and wanna be's can come together and raise their collective cholesterol. It is a sanctuary. The sanctity of Chicken & Waffles can not be violated by fisticuffs and gunplay. Unless some hapless fool tries to cut in line and then, of course, it’s on.

Indeed, the time has come to franchise; build a Roscoe's in Bagdad. That part of the world could surely use a little comfort food. Maybe a little grease will pave the road to peace. I mean really, terrorists gotta eat too. But we'll keep Cuba on standby, just in case. You never know when the help of an Oscar winner may come in handy.

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