Fat Daddy's Hot Chicken and Waffles in Riverview is taking flight

The fried chicken and waffles concept debuted Downriver in late 2019, and by the end of this year owners plan to open three more locations

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Southern fried chicken sandwiches may be the hottest food trend of the past few years, and lucky for us, restaurants seem to be falling over one another to offer the biggest, juiciest and spiciest specimens of the popular dish. 

Downriver, Fat Daddy's Hot Chicken and Waffles is aiming to perfect hot chicken with its sandwiches and chicken and waffle dishes. Chef and owner James Brandon spent months on the recipes before opening the carryout business in December 2019, and before the end of 2021 he and business partner Nick Patel plan to open three more Fat Daddy's locations. 

Fat Daddy's Hot Chicken and Waffles in Riverview.

"I love to cook, I love to make people smile, especially with my food," said Brandon. He's worked in restaurants for years, including at his previous business, Fat Daddy's Ribs and Chicken in Philadelphia. "Over 25 years in the food business, I've made a lot of money for a lot of people, but it wasn't my passion. My passion was doing my thing." 

Using his family as taste-testers, he experimented with fried chicken recipes in his home for nine months. He also went back to his "roots," visiting an aunt in Virginia to learn her cooking techniques. One of the practices Brandon learned from her was not using written down recipes, but doing it by feel and memory. He took time to develop his waffle recipe and also checked in with a few of his mentors. 

The "Fat Daddy" chicken sandwich from Fat Daddy's in Riverview is a jumbo boneless chicken thigh on brioche with house-made coleslaw, comeback sauce and pickles.

"One of them told me if you marinate chicken it will change your life, so our chicken is marinated 24-48 hours, so that's where you get the juiciness of our chicken breast. Even if you fry it hard, it's still going to be juicy on the inside," he said. "And the buttermilk breaks it down, makes it tender and then we throw a lot of seasonings in there, we spice it up — we spice up the flour, we spice it up after we cook it. It's all about levels of flavor."

As the name implies, the menu is mostly fried chicken, including sandwiches and waffle combos. Heat levels range from none (country style) to mild, which is pretty hot, hot, extra hot and "too damn hot," which is even too hot for Brandon. Among the signature sandwiches is the "Fat Daddy," which is a massive boneless chicken thigh on a brioche bun with house-made coleslaw, comeback sauce and pickles. It's $11 and that includes a helping of fries. 

The 1/4 dark meat chicken and waffle combo from Fat Daddy's, served with melted butter and syrup. Waffles are available in regular, red velvet or chocolate.

"Dark meat holds flavor because of the fat content," said Brandon. "And we still trim it so it doesn't have as much fat on it ... but it holds flavor tremendously. The way the boneless, skinless thigh is, it's large, so it gives you a great presentation. It's a lot of food."

If you're really going for it, the "Suga Momma" sandwich uses two glazed doughnuts instead of brioche and also has house-made sweet ranch dressing and thick-cut bacon. For more sweet-and-savory dishes, the chicken and waffle plates come with quartered chicken, half chicken, tenders or wings. The crispy on the outside, fluffy inside waffles come in a traditional flavor, or choose red velvet or chocolate. 

Fat Daddy's "Suga Momma" is a fried chicken sandwich with two glazed doughnuts instead of buns.

The first of the three new Fat Daddy's will likely be in Redford at 9363 Telegraph. This location has suffered some setbacks due to construction delays and COVID-19, but could open in the next month. Also coming down the line is an Ann Arbor location at 411 E. Washington in the YOUnion student housing building. 

Closer to the end of the year, Fat Daddy's will debut its first city outpost when they open inside a food court at MGM Grand Detroit, 1777 Third in Detroit. 

Brandon said he's had offers to franchise Fat Daddy's out of state, too, but he wants to continue to grow slowly and steadily to preserve the quality of his products. 

So far, so good. Fat Daddy's is hitting all the right marks. The food is comforting and customizable, it's not expensive and it's fast. (It also keeps. I was late picking up a recent order, and didn't get it to the dinner table until about an hour after it was packaged up. Everything was still perfectly crispy, hot and juicy.) 

Fat Daddy's Hot Chicken and Waffles, 18283 M-85 (Fort street) in Riverview, is open 11 a.m-8 p.m. Tues.-Sat. and noon-7 p.m. Sun. Order online or call ahead: (734) 288-3051 or fatdaddys-chicken.com.

mbaetens@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @melodybaetens