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cheap eats
by dan leone


I'LL TELL YOU WHAT: Lois the Pie Queen. And I'll tell you why (are you sitting down?): chicken and waffles.

Chicken and waffles! –Who knew? I'd've known if I hadn't been sleeping on the job. People have been saying "Lois the Pie Queen" to me for 10 years. In my defense, no one ever said anything about chickens and waffles. They just said, "Lois the Pie Queen," and they said it so many times I think I thought it was one of those overpopular overrated wahoo joints. Or else a pie place, or something. I tried to go one time, and they were closed. (It's breakfast or lunch or nothing, with Lois.) And somehow I never tried again.

Of course, in those days there was Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles, and all was well with the world. The good people of Oakland walked the earth (in Oakland) in a perpetual state of enlightenment and syrup lubrication, toothpicks dancing happily upon their lower lips, eyes half open, ears ringing with the clatter and clang of a bustling breakfast joint just left, souls singing hymns of praise to the Lord B.J., or, for the featherweights, Denise's Delight.

Then there followed 40 days and 40 nights where all was darkness and despair and wailing and gnashing of teeth, and what was for breakfast was so run-of-the-mill that people started sleeping in until noon. Roscoe's had pulled out of the East Bay. St. Francis of the Grill retired Ann's Cafe. What was the point of getting out of bed?

Then came to pass last Sunday, whence me and my friend Yo-Yo wound up at Lois the Pie Queen after a line-related misadventure in San Leandro. No line at Lois's, not even at prime-time lunchtime, so either we got lucky or else I'd overestimated the place's popularity. Or else word wasn't out about waffles and chickens being on the menu. Together. Again. At last. Or else word was out, and so nobody sleeps till noon anymore, not even on the weekend.

Well ... whateverwise, if you miss Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles – and if you're anything like me, you do – then go to Lois the Pie Queen. It's at Adeline and 60th. There's a counter. There's clatter and clang. There's the Reggie Jackson special, which Yo-Yo swears by: eggs and pork chops and grits. (Like I'm going to order eggs in a restaurant, this day and age!) There's all sorts of breakfasty and lunchy stuff, almost all of which I almost ordered (if it wasn't eggs), on account of that's how hungry I was. Luckily it took a little while for the waitressperson to get to us; long enough that I finally found what I didn't even know I was looking for.

"What?" Yo-Yo said, because I was giggling googily, rattling around in my chair like tears of joy hitting hot oil.

I pointed to the menu. It was all I could do. Chicken and waffles, I pointed, as ready as I've ever been to place an order. And here, as if on cue, came the waitressperson!

"Ready?" she said.

I came in my pants.

In all my giddiness, however, it never occurred to me to think about cost or value or economics in general. It didn't occur to me until just now, writing this, that the Pie Queen's chicken and waffles breakfast is one waffle and two pieces, or, in plainer English, Denise's Delight – but for the price of a Lord B.J. ($8.75). The Lord B.J. was two waffles and four pieces, or half a bird, all of which added up to some of the sweetest, butteriest, chickeniest after-breakfast naps I've ever had.

I should have known that something was wrong when I finished eating and had room for a piece of pie for dessert. (Mixed berry, $3. Damn good.)

Well, what are you going to do? Go to L.A. to go to Roscoe's? Order Lois's chicken and waffles twice – $17.50 for a Lord B.J.? No. Pay the pie queen for your fix: one waffle (great, just like Roscoe's), a leg and a thigh (kind of dry, but that's just like Roscoe's too, which is why you cut it up onto your waffle with all the butter, in my book, and pour syrup all over everything) ... then tack on a piece of pie, if you're still hungry, like I did. It ain't the glory days, but it ain't the dark ages either.

Lois, I know you've been dead now almost 10 years, and may you continue to rest in peace, but if you can somehow stir your boy, or whoever runs the joint now, into adding another waffle and two more pieces of chicken to the mix ... BTW, FYI, LPQ: going rate for four pieces and two waffles at the Hollywood RCW is NEF ($9.85).

Lois the Pie Queen. 851 60th St. (at Adeline), Oakl. (510) 658-5616. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-2 p.m.; Sat., 7 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sun., 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Takeout available. Credit cards not accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Dan Leone is the author of Eat This, San Francisco (Sasquatch Books), a collection of Cheap Eats restaurant reviews, and The Meaning of Lunch (Mammoth Books).