This time of year, everyone is either regretting eating too much or not eating enough. Either way, it's a time of celebrations, an excuse to meet loved ones, and get fat together over some comfort food and warm personalities. It can be argued beautiful things come in pairs, such as Abbott and Costello, Lucy and Desi, peanut butter and jelly. One more pairing to add would be chicken and waffles. This comfort combo has been around for ages down in the south regions of the U.S., and luckily, has gone past its geographic confines and migrated itself throughout the dining rooms of many satisfied diners country wide. Even in the city of La Habra lives a soulful place with the name appropriate for the food which awaits. This soul food restaurant is called Mrs. Bea's Louisiana Chicken & Waffles.
Walking into the wooden doors of this restaurant means walking into a dining room both having character and lacking it at the same time. To elaborate, the dining room is sharply dressed, with dark wooden tables and chairs filling the large dining room floor. Comfortable booths line the sides so a view to the street can be seen from large windows. The walls are white and clean, and large flat screen TVs are hung above, showcasing the latest sports. It all sounds nice, but the deco is just a bit too sterile. It sounds ridiculous that a restaurant would be frowned upon for being too clean, but with a restaurant known for serving soul food, you would expect a bit more character, a bit more grime. Although this restaurant is relatively new, that lack of history, or twang of the south, makes this interior the same as any restaurant out there, whether eating at a Chinese restaurant or an Italian one.
The service here is actually rather good. Although this specific restaurant has a reputation for being slow with service, it might just be more of a rarity than commonality. The servers seem well educated of the menu, and freely give suggestions on what to try, especially if you are a first time diner. Most of the time they'll suggest the staples like the chicken & waffles or red beans & rice, but if you are willing to try newer items, they'll help paint a picture for you.
A glance at the menu suggests a large variety of foods to try, and some of the stranger items are definitely worth exploring. Take Mrs. Bea's dirty rice rolls for example. This appetizer is egg roll skins filled with dirty rice, ground spiced meats, and laced above with lines of Mrs. Bea's special sauce: a tangy, chipotle mayo flavor. This appetizer combines the traditional flavor of the south with the crispiness of the Orient, a fusion combination which works well. The red beans & rice also is a classic southern dish done so fantastically well here. A good portion comes out on a white china plate with an island of white rice surrounded by the sea of red beans. A rain of parsley sprinkles itself on top to create a beautiful scene. Smokiness imbues each tasting and the texture of rice and beans is tender and moist. Finally, the chicken and waffle makes its way. This classic combo comes with different options at Mrs. Bea's. Whether you want two or three pieces, dark or white meat, or even different types of waffles to suit your flavor palate, it allows you to pick and choose like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. The crispiness of the skin is just right, containing the juicy meat within the walls of its crunchy exterior. The waffle is big and is a good companion to the meatiness next to it. How could you go wrong with these soulful choices?
Well, there are several ways. Firstly, let's start with the temperature. Unfortunately, the food often comes out rather luke-warm. This is a big issue when you plan on eating a hearty meal. Rarely do you hear someone say, "I can't wait to eat this cold, hearty meal". Heat and heartiness go hand in hand like high fives and bros. You need comfort food to be warm-to-hot in temperature to give you the warm fuzzies in your stomach. When you get something cold, it becomes hard to digest and just lumpy. Sadly, the temperature of the food defeats the effectiveness of each dish. To add to that, a waffle should come out crispy and crunchy. It matches the texture of the fried chicken it comes with; yet, at Mrs. Bea's there seems to be a problem with the waffle machine because all the waffles come out rather...spongy. Now, there is an option to get a softer waffle when you order, but if you order a crunchy waffle, you expect one. Whether it be from miscommunication or confusion of what is considered crispy, the texture is an issue that will make a meal hard to finish completely satisfied.
Though this restaurant is by no means awful, it does lack the soul that makes southern restaurants "soulful". As much good as there is, they could do so much better. All the pieces are there, they just don't seem to be placed right. Perhaps it's the growing pains of a young restaurant, but Mrs. Bea's Louisiana Chicken & Waffles just isn't there quite yet. It is a restaurant to try, but you can find much better elsewhere. Hopefully Mrs. Bea's Louisiana Chicken & Waffles will find its stride in a few years.
Mrs. Bea's Louisiana Chicken & Waffles
1299 S Harbor Blvd
La Habra, CA 90631