BY CHRISTOPHER NANK, GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT
“We don’t have that anymore.”
Heartbreak. The the last thing a questing diner wants to hear is exactly what I was told upon taking a seat at Datz and ordering the South Tampa gastro-deli’s Chicken and Waffle BLT. I know Datz, a popular destination among locals and visiting luminaries for brunch, sandwiches and inventive cocktails, regularly rotates items in and out of their menu. But considering the recent local fascination with chicken and waffles, not to mention the fact that mere moments before placing my order I had spotted one of the sandwiches being bussed through the dining area, I admit to being a little nonplussed. Why remove an item so obviously in demand?
Perhaps sensing my desperation, our server mercifully agreed to cobble one together by making several alterations to the Smokey and the Bird, substituting fried for smoked chicken and two waffle sections (not the ideally sized for this purpose) for a sourdough bun. Sigh. So it is.
The wait for my “faux” Chicken and Waffle BLT was made eminently more bearable by a fine Pimm’s Cup. When the sandwich did arrive, it was immediately clear the waffle-as-bun would present certain structural challenges. Although the meal being quickly reduced to a knife-and-fork affair did not detract from the pleasing flavors of the fried chicken cutlets or the Nueske’s bacon, it did thereafter lack any resemblance to a sandwich. I also think I may have erred in requesting mayo as a condiment rather than the standard maple syrup. As anyone who’s sampled chicken and waffles can attest, once you go syrup (and possibly butter, if you’re feeling really decadent), there’s no going back.
Datz’s housemade chips, dusted with sugar and topped with scallions and runny sour cream, more than held up the side-order end of the meal. The chips, frequently integrated into the “sandwich” as utensils became necessary, began to remind me of another old favorite dish: my special order at Waffle House, which too appears on no menu. (For those interested: one waffle, loaded with a double order of hash browns scattered, covered, chunked, topped and finished with butter and syrup.) I doubt Datz would be flattered to be mentioned in the same class of eateries as Waffle House, so here’s my advice: Make the Chicken and Waffle BLT a permanent fixture on the menu. Standardize it. Use correctly-sized waffles and appropriate portions of chicken. Make sure it can be eaten easily as a sandwich.
As it stands, the Datz Chicken and Waffle BLT, however tasty, is an argument against the notion that any meal can be eaten as a sandwich.
Christopher Nank, Ph.D., is adjunct instructor of literature at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. His contributions to the Carrollwood, Florida, Patch blog can be read here. He resides in Tampa.