Tammy’s Chicken in Waffles brings unconventional comfort food to Berkeley

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Amanda Ramirez/Staff

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An unconventional take on a classic treat, Tammy’s Chicken in Waffles is opening its first Berkeley location on Friday.

The original location can be found on Treasure Island in San Francisco inside of a vibrant pink shipping container, but the Berkeley site — located at 2466 Bancroft Way — will be a true brick-and-mortar shop. With the opening of the new store, the Treasure Island location is temporarily closed, but it will reopen as soon as the new shop is up and running.

Tammy’s Chicken in Waffles co-owner and founder Tammy Powers said that although the idea started with a simple coffee cart, it quickly grew into something much bigger.

“I was a bicycle mechanic who needed some coffee, so instead of getting a coffee machine for my repair shop, I decided to start a coffee cart as another business,” Powers said. “That grew into my realizing that I needed a bigger menu item.”

Tammy’s Chicken in Waffles serves four main dishes and features four rotating specials, such as the Cordon Blew Waffles, which combines chicken strips, ham slices and Swiss cheese, and Life is Peaches & Cream, which features sliced peaches inside the waffle and is topped with whipped cream.

Waffles were a special treat for Powers as a kid, so she said she wanted to duplicate that feeling and share it with the public.

“When my mom used to take the waffle maker out, that was something special,” Powers recalled.

Although she doesn’t consider herself to be in the restaurant business, Powers said the idea of chicken in waffles just seemed simple, but far-fetched enough that “nobody else had done it.”

Co-owner Niko Thysell said that he and Powers started working together two years ago after he stopped by her shipping container during San Francisco Fleet Week, and they started construction on the second location about a year and a half ago.

“Nobody else has really even heard of chicken in waffles, but I think it’s going to be awesome, and I can do it down here in a basement, in a place that’s less than 700 square feet,” Powers said.

Powers and Thysell said they were considering Emeryville and Oakland for the second location, but nothing jumped out at them. Eventually, they found one location that seemed to stand out.

Powers said the hidden location made the spot even better, encompassing the essence of the shop and its tendency to be “the absolute unusual.” Being hard to find is now a part of the shop’s identity, according to Thysell.

“It’s not a regular storefront, you don’t just walk by and see it, you have to go down an alley, down a flight of steps into a basement,” Thysell said. “We were told once that finding us was like finding buried treasure, and that fits us perfectly because we started off on Treasure Island.”

Powers said that who she and Thysell hire to work for them often stems from the fact that she is a trans woman and that she used to be homeless, which she said lets her connect with a lot of people.

According to Thysell, they choose who they employ carefully, but first priority goes to members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Thysell and Powers stated that they are both excited about the Berkeley location and are looking forward to opening more locations in the future.

“It’s chicken in waffles,” Thysell added. “Where else do you go to get some?”

Contact Margaret Black at [email protected].