The Early Bird Diner: Chicken and waffles, and so much more

Image by Early Bird Diner Chicken, meet waffles.

Update November 28: Our circa 2010 Early Bird Diner love not enough for you? 

Well, the Charleston City Paper is dishing some up, too, with phrases like "Chicken, waffles, and art? Yes, but that is only the beginning."

—Update by Ken Hawkins

First reporting: Every town needs a good diner -- a place to eat breakfast at odd hours off the day and listen to oldies while drinking coffee; somewhere where good and greasy food is always a guarantee and the servers know the regulars by name.

For Charleston, the Early Bird Diner could be that place.

Everything at Early Bird is homemade, from the salad dressings to biscuits and the ice cream. The diner serves lunch, dinner, and breakfast from open to close each day. And each day, new specials are written on the chalkboard above the kitchen. The regular menu is filled with stand by favs.

The fried pickles ($5) are a meal in themselves -- sliced pickles, thickly coated in a cornmeal crust, enclosing piping hot vinegary insides, and served with side of roulade. Other appetizers include: grilled corn cakes with hot pepper jelly ($5) and pecan crusted chicken fingers ($6).

But if fried chicken is what you crave (and you’d be wise to order some here), we suggest you opt for the gangster favorite of fried chicken and waffles ($9). Two colossal chicken breasts, fried to a dense and crispy golden brown, are served over a Belgian waffle, topped with maple syrup and a honey mustard drizzle. This dish is so gigantic. It easily feed two people.

As far as sandwiches, the Early Bird Diner cooks everything from shrimp po’ boys to patty melts, veggie burgers to pork schnitzel. The blackened green tomato melt ($6.25) oozes with gooey mozzarella and pesto on a round, rustic bun. Every sandwich comes with a choice of side, like light and crumbly Mac ‘n Cheese, cheesy mashed potatoes, or braised collard greens with vinegar sauce for dipping. Four sides will earn you an $8 vegetable plate.

But like any diner, breakfast is the Early Bird’s main staple. Order eggs any style with a biscuit or toast ($6), buttermilk pancakes ($6.25), or one of their inventive daily specials like salami, sopresatta, egg and swiss on an asiago bagel.

But beyond the food, what makes the Early Bird Diner so unique are the personal touches owners Nicole Morris and Dexter Haigler have added to their privately owned haunt. Paintings and photos from local artists hang on the wall. There are books for trade, and board games to play. And on weekends, the Early Bird Diner stays open until 4 a.m.

It’s an upscale diner serving down home cuisine in a place with a retro/hipster vibe. 

The portions are gargantuan. The prices are cheap. And if you arrive drunk at 2 a.m., you’re likely to leave sober from all the food in your belly. So the next time a hankering for French toast and home fries strikes, make the trek to Early Bird Diner.

Because it’s fresh. Because it’s local. And it’s way better than Waffle House.

1644 Savannah Highway in West Ashley. (843) 277-2353.

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