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Cluck-worthy fried chicken: Bay Bay’s is lip-smacking good

Hold the waffle. Even if just for a minute, hold the waffle.

Yes, it’s a decadent touch and part of the brand at Bay Bay’s Chicken & Waffles, but with its syrup, toppings and breakfast connotations it’s also a potential distraction from the main event.

The main event being the fried chicken. The lip-smacking good fried chicken.

Tender beneath a crispy, spicy, almost sweet crust, the first bite is a juicy and flavorful wallop.

The fried chicken recipe, as the place itself, is the enterprise of Israel Johnson, a businessman and educator who teaches online college classes on restaurant management. Johnson opened Bay Bay’s five months ago in the compact, red, freestanding building where Eggsotic Bistro stood some years ago.

Here you are, bellied up to the counter at the tiny, but busy chicken joint, as the fried chicken chef drops one well-seasoned, buttermilk-marinated piece after another into the fryer, then dresses up a fresh-made waffle. At the sight of that waffle, you may be tempted to plunge into the sweet side of the experience first.

But don’t be seduced by the sweet. Oh, the waffles will tempt with their flavor “upgrades” – for $3, you can swap out a plain waffle for one flavored in lemon cake, red velvet, strawberry, chocolate, pumpkin pie or pecan.

If you’re a fried chicken fan, however, do yourself a favor: dig into the chicken first. Then have your waffle fun.

That chicken is served in a range of ways, in chicken and waffle combos that run from $6.95 (two piece, dark meat), to $12.95 for 8 jumbo wingettes. Family meals run from $26.95 for a 10-piece bucket and two large sides to $49.95 for 20 pieces and four large sides.

The spicy chicken also is served in a fried chicken sub ($8.95), in fried wings and strips (starting at $8.95), a fried chicken sandwich ($7.95) and fried chicken wing fettuccine ($14.95).

Beyond that, there a menu to meander through.

You may want to try the (non-fried) chicken fettuccine ($9.95), in a thick, creamy and peppery Alfredo sauce, or the fried catfish and grits ($9.95), or the Jamaican Curry Stir ($11.95), a sauté of jumbo shrimp with spinach, peppers, onions and tomatoes that’s served with nicely acidic collard greens.

Or you may want to do the breakfast for dinner – or breakfast for dessert – and plunge straight into a peanut butter and grape jelly waffle ($7.95) or a Cuban coffee waffle ($7.95) that’s filled with bits of cream cheese and topped with a guava-orange glaze (and if you do, you’ll hear the sound of the heavens parting).

But whatever you try at this friendly, well attended spot, don’t leave the counter (or table) without digging into a plump, crispy leg or wing.

You’ll cluck about it later.

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