Neighboring Youngtown Market and a locksmith at the intersection of Nevada and 111th avenues, Rag’s is easily missed by much of metropolitan Phoenix. Rag refers to the owner, Ken Smith, a.k.a. Rag, who’s been operating the 50-seat eatery since 2015. His wife and sons help run the soul food joint, but if you come in midday for lunch, it might just be you and Smith.
And that's fine, because Smith is extremely friendly. The business' Facebook page reads, "We will deep fry anything you can digest. My job is to serve and protect your appetite. Alabama style!" And after meeting Smith, you can tell he definitely wrote that.
Then, you’ll notice the small stage in the back, and how the walls are adorned with photos of jazz musicians and record covers.
Drink choices include sweet tea, water, and soda, and then you order. The menu lists plates of ribs, fish, shrimp, a chicken sandwich, and sides like baked beans and mac and cheese. But honey, we definitely recommend sticking with No. 1, the namesake dish, on your first visit.
For the chicken and waffles, white meat means a breast and wing; dark means a thigh and drum. If Smith hasn’t had a visitor in a while, there’s no distinct smell inside the restaurant until he starts cooking. This is proof things are made to order, as Smith promises from the start.
But that’s if you're not coming in at night. Rag’s actually hosts live music multiple times a week, hence the small stage and large speakers. And there’s also a BYOB policy here, meaning bring it if you got it (and they definitely got more at the neighboring Youngtown Market). Another feature of Rag’s is delivery. Says so right there on the menu: “We deliver. Don’t cuss. Call us!!”
The best part is, the breast has divots, so it can be pulled apart more easily. And once the chicken cools just a little, you realize this works like a charm.
“Nobody does that but Rag’s,” Smith says, proudly.
And he should be. The chicken is perfectly cooked beneath the extremely crunchy shell. No hot sauce is really necessary. And if you can pull yourself away, knife into that cup of warm butter and start spreading on your fresh waffle. Maybe add a little syrup. If you can get all these elements onto one forkful, you’ve beat the simulation.
A word of advice after you’ve requested a to-go box: Be sure to wash your hands well. The smell of the fresh chicken skin will linger on your fingertips. And keep that to-go box out of sight. Because if there’s any chance you’re hungry again later at the office and remember those leftovers exist, you’ll be digging back into that to-go box well before dinner.
Rag’s Real Chicken & Waffles.
12242 North 111th Avenue, Youngtown
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Tuesday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday to Saturday; closed Wednesday and Sunday