Howlin’ Ray’s is super nova hot, and we’re not just talking about the fiery seasoning that’s made this fried chicken so famous. Last week, a brilliant column featuring the wildly popular place in Downtown L.A.’s Chinatown appeared in the Los Angeles Times and absolutely blew up on social media.
The piece’s juicy premise was that neighborhood residents couldn’t afford to eat this ultra-spicy chicken, so the reporter stood in line and delivered the chicken to some folks who gave it pretty lukewarm reviews. The well-written and widely read story was a clever way to discuss gentrification that’s been going on for some time, pricing out middle and low income residents. Thought-provoking, it also prompting a craving for chicken fried crispy, so we cooked up a list of places where you likely won’t have to wait in line.
OK, so here’s the disclaimer: None of them serve “Nashville Hot” fried chicken that’s favored at Howlin’ Rays because... well, not everybody likes it hot. In fact, the original Nashville hot fried chicken — from Prince’s — was created by the owner to punish her cheating husband. Ha! And, surprise! He loved it and so did customers and a spicy hot movement was born. You like it hot? Great, ask for some sauce on the side and douse away.
This counter in Grand Central Market gets a big high five for using top-notch ingredients, and making everything on the menu from scratch. Right down to its hot pepper sauce that’s a tribute to the boss’s hometown of Buffalo, N.Y. Chef-owner Chris Dane brines the poultry, giving it an extra tender texture below the golden crunchy surface. The crunch continues with a sprinkle of finishing salt, and, then, there’s a twist. Lemon zest brightens up the rich dish.
Since opening in 1975, this soul food restaurant has been a huge hit putting chicken and waffles on the culinary map. Though the origin of that unusual dish goes way back to a supper club in Harlem in the 1930s, there’s no doubt Roscoe’s brought it to the mainstream. Hardcore foodies might find it too mainstream these days, but there’s comfort in that formula, and it certainly attracts its share of famous fans. Yup, that’s a photo of President Barack Obama hanging in the Pasadena store. The menu is extensive, but let’s cut to the chase. Order the classic fried chicken and waffles, especially if you enjoy the salty-sweet combo. The simply seasoned bird only gets better when you add a little syrup-drenched waffle to the mix.
Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken
Fried to order, this famous chicken is hot in a whole different way than the Nashville hot. The two slices of white bread that come with most combo plates act like little oven mitts in picking up those extra warm pieces. The bread is also a nod to the famous fried chicken’s history that dates back to the 1950s when the family who first introduced the recipe served it as a sandwich sold out of the back door of a tavern in Mason, Tenn. In 2001, Wendy McCrory opened a Gus’s in Memphis, and the project soared to eventually end up with locations across the country while holding firm to the original traditions. Walk into a location just off Pico and there’s a distinctly Memphis flavor to the joint. Plus, the chicken is outstanding. Don’t forget to order sweet tea and a piece of Chess Pie for that true Southern experience.
Hungry for more? Please read Searching In-n-Out of Los Angeles For A Better Burger and Here’s What To Order At Beelman’s, Downtown L.A.’s Cool Vegan Bar