Seattle basketball fans are faced with yet another long season without a hometown team to support, but there is something NBA-related and local that we can cheer about. Open for a little over a month in Rainier Beach, Nate’s Wings & Waffles (9261 57th Ave S) is co-owned by none other than Denver Nuggets guard Nate Robinson and serves up a sweet-and-savory combo of chicken and waffles, along with wings, mac and cheese and other sides like salt-and-pepper fries. Robinson partnered with Darren and Krystle McGill of food truck Happy Grillmore to open the restaurant in the space previously belonging to Fat’s Wings and Waffles.
A Rainier Beach native, Robinson played high school basketball at Rainier Beach High School (the school retired his jersey in 2010) and college ball at the University of Washington before skipping his final year and entering the NBA draft in 2005. The point guard’s nine-year professional career has been a successful one so far. Among his many accolades: winning the Slam Dunk Contest during the 2010 All-Star Weekend and scoring an impressive career-high 45 points against the Portland Trail Blazers in 2008. Who knew that opening a chicken restaurant would be one of his next victories?
Last Friday night, I decided to try out Nate’s Wings and Waffles. Confession: At the time, I was a chicken-and-waffles virgin. I had anticipated this rite of passage the whole day. And I was not disappointed.
As people began to line up and place their orders during my visit, the restaurant’s small space easily felt crowded, but this only added to the casual, neighborhood atmosphere. There was a live DJ posted next to the cash register (LL Cool J tunes set the mood), and the music was regularly punctuated by comical announcements coming from the order window, where you can catch a glimpse of the culinary magic happening behind the scenes.
I ordered the chicken waffle sliders ($10), which is essentially chicken strips (regular or spicy) sandwiched between two crispy waffles topped with maple aioli and mixed greens. The maple aioli was the game changer. Sure the chicken was appropriately moist and the waffle nice and fluffy, but the aioli is what united these unlikely sandwich companions. In fact, sauce is a staple at Nate’s. I didn’t try the wings, but its chalkboard menu listed plenty of saucy options, such as chipotle barbecue, lemon pepper and garlic ginger, to accompany a half-, one- or two-pound wing or strip order. I’m dying to try the coconut jalapeno lime sauce next time—it may just force me to stray from what I already know will be my regular order here. Heck, I just noticed a whole list of extras I didn’t even think about trying on my first visit, such as the onion rings, but only because I had to stop eating or scrap the rest of the evening’s plans. Healthy eaters take note: you may want to go with the kale salad.
I’ve heard Robinson works at the restaurant when he’s in town. Otherwise, family keeps it running, and that’s definitely the vibe it brings. Whether it’s Robinson’s next slam dunk (#holdat), or his crunchy and delightful fried chicken, I’m cheering for Robinson this season.
Nate’s Wings & Waffles is closed Mondays, open Tues-Sat for lunch (12 to 2:30 p.m.) and dinner (4:30 to 8 p.m.) and Sunday (11 a.m. to 7 p.m.).