The road trip this summer was epic. In waaaaay bigger, and more ways than I ever could have anticipated. Even as we were driving, I was planning out my writing and publishing schedule in my head, and figured that while it’d be tight, I should be able to have the book that I’m turning the trip into done and out by Christmas.
That was cute.
This part of it though, this part that is really the first of two parts, featuring the Early Bird Diner, has been dancing in the back of my mind for a while now, well, really since the day that we were in Charleston, and is ready to be told.
Alicia and I drove in to Charleston on July Tuesday afternoon, found our way to our hotel, (lemme tell ya, having GPS on our phones, well Alicia’s phone, mostly, was pretty fantastic) showered off a day on the road, and went out in search of dinner. We landed at a place called 5Church, (which you’ll hear more about very soon) that night, we happened to sit next to a server in training at the bar. Who let us share in his tasting of the menu, and through conversation that drummed up, I found out from both he and that bartender that the place to go for food at in the morning was the Early Bird Diner, oh, and make sure to get the chicken and waffles.
That point they made sure we understood, best chicken and waffles in the city. Hell yah. We were down.
The next morning we were up and out, and on our way, Alicia navigating from shotgun, we wound our way from our hotel on Patriots Point towards The Early Bird, working through the day’s agenda as we drove, and soaking in the summer air (by this point we’d figured out that if we had both the windows at least partly down, and the AC cranking that we were both comfortable). Really,talking about anything other than the food that we were about to order. We found the building, tucked just back from the road, with enough room for it’s parking lot to wrap tightly around it, a gravel lot behind it, with a thin stand of trees along the back line, a bench that was clearly a place meant to rest away from the kitchen, for that moment that comes between the rushes.
There was a space that was perfect for parking, as long as you were willing to be a little bit creative. I asked the man who was sitting on the bench with a book in his hand (he’d looked up as we drove in, I’m not that big of an asshole as to badger someone who’s reading just like that) if what I had in mind was in fact an acceptable place to park, and he gave us the go ahead.
As we parked and got out I asked if he was by chance the chef, as clearly, this dude’s a chef. He says yes, that he’s one of them, and that his name is Dexter. We chatted for a couple moments longer, and that I should say hi before we go, and asked what I was planning on ordering. My answer, oh, I’ve heard the chicken and waffles are good, and with that, left to find Alicia.
She’d been sat at a table, and as soon as I slid into our booth, asked me where my phone was, and while yes, I am prone to not always know exactly where it is when I’m in and out of my camera bag, it wasn’t a normal greeting. She’d learned, once she’d walked in, (as we made it a point to do zero research about anywhere we went *outside of New Orleans, because that’s it’s whole own thing*) that at some point prior, The Early Bird had been featured on Diners, Drive In’s, and Dives. Awesome.
We ordered, and as we waited for our food to come out, nailed down the final details of our schedule for the rest of the day, a task we found far easier once we’d each had a cup of coffee.
Then we got our food.
I’m pretty sure we could aptly name it the chicken and waffles road trip, as we sampled our way around the Southeastern corner of the country. If Alicia is in ear shot and you bring up chicken and waffles, I promise, you’ll get the best combination eye roll and smirk, (which is neither mean nor condescending, even though as I wrote it out, I realized it may sound as such) that will inevitably lead to “lemme tell you about chicken and waffles and this road trip that I was on.”
Hands down the best chicken and waffles I have ever had. I could try and do them justice with words, but no matter what I would say, it would not even come close to how mind blowing this was, and you’d think I was overstating anyhow.
I asked our server to send Dexter out, as that we met. He came out, chatted with us a bit, and agreed to sit down and talk further with me, when we were finished with our meal, almost as a passing after thought, he asked if our server had dropped off his business card. As they had not, I was told that he’d make sure our server brought one by.
Card gets dropped off, we settle up and are getting ready to leave as I’m putting his card into my wallet I finally really looked at it.
Y’all, he’s the owner.
We sat down out back, he on the bench, and I parked it right on the ground (believe me, when you’ve been in the car for that long, with the knowledge that there is a whole lot more road ahead, you take every chance you can get to sit comfortably) Others came and went over the course of the conversation, and when it was time to say our good byes, there were six of us parting ways.
The next time that you’re in Charleston, you’ve gotta make time for a meal a The Early Bird Diner.