Oohhs & Aahhs owner Indiah Wilson still had a 2 AM shift to cover after clubbing one night last week at Lotus Lounge. The photogenic cover girl of last year's Cheap Eats issue (our 2007 edition of Cheap Eats hits newsstands this week) strolled in wearing knock-out fuchsia hot pants, but immediately bolted toward the register. It was time for business. Though a tad early by traditional breakfast standards, she was right on time for chicken and waffles (a nocturnal culinary tradition, historically).
For the last few weeks, she's been making nightly appearances starting at midnight for her soul kitchen's new late night menu. Though the options are limited (they all fit onto Xeroxed half- sheets of paper) she's covered all the bases. There's the chicken and waffles meal ($10.95 for five wing pieces and one Frisbee-sized waffle), along with fried catfish, Cajun-style grilled shrimp, eggs, turkey bacon, grits and home fries. Some confused pedestrians still wonder if she's cleaning up, or just forgot to turn off the lights. Nope. She's frying up marinated chicken, probably after some VIP club or invitation-only party. By 2:30 AM, crowds from K Street Lounge, Lotus and Bohemian Caverns mosey on over, and about an hour later, cop cars start lining up outside for grub between shifts.
With the regular business hours between noon and 10 PM, Oohhs & Aahhs only has two hours to shut down before reopening again at midnight. Late night chef and cashier "G" (his real name is Greg) must hustle to get the waffle irons in place and clean up leftover collards. He's got the silverware and china ready too (styrofoam boxes and plastic forks).
Sure, fried chicken recalls cholesterol-happy images of KFC and syrup-drenched waffles, but the food here isn't as heavy as it sounds. "G" even claims the chicken and waffles meal is just half the calories of a Ben's Chili Bowl half-smoke down the block. Oohhs & Aahhs uses egg whites in their homemade waffle batter. The fried chicken, seasoned with paprika, rosemary, pepper, is crunchy and maybe even greasy, but doesn't need more than two napkins for damp hands.
Graveyard shift cabbies may not yet understand the Oohhs & Aahhs destination request ("Huh? Is that a club?") But they will, eventually. By 2 AM, the music volume was competitive with nearby clubs. And it's about time the U Street corridor—the former stomping ground for jazz legends like Gillespie and Armstrong—had a happening chicken and waffles joint. The jazz-reminiscent food hails back to the 1930s, when the fourth meal became a "thing" at the Wells Supper Club in Harlem during the height of the Jazz Age. Fried chicken was greasy enough to soak up cocktails, and the waffles were comforting. The way a food paired with soulful music should be.
Oohhs & Aahhs, 1005 U Street NW; 202-6667-7142.
Don't be fooled by the voice message, which has yet to update the hours of operation. Regular business hours are noon to 10; the late night shift starts Wednesday through Sunday at midnight, and typically ends around 4 AM, or whenever the crowds stop.