I know. I think I’ll make popcorn.
Since it’s in our neighborhood, we went on Sunday and first…
We surprised by lack of crowd. This was not an odd time on Sunday… it was like 6:30p.
Second, we expected a sit down sorta situation like at Gus’. Instead its an order at the counter and take your number kinda place…
The menu is kinda limited. I had hoped they had things like Fried Okra that Gus’ has… but instead it’s just chicken, a few sides and a fried fish entree. And @boynamedsue is absolutely right… these are the SWEETEST FOLKS. Each one was friendly, helpful and even empathetic. It’s been a while since I’ve had such all around lovely service, especially at a recent opening where often you can sense the whiff of desperation…
As for the food. We went in not expecting Howlin’ Rays. There was NO WAY they could be that good. I appreciate someone who think they hold a candle… but no. I’m not a huge a Fried Chicken person but I have happily waited in line at HR and would again.
However, we found the chicken to be much better than Gus’, which is a very nice thing since Hotville is much closer to us.
We ordered quite a few things…
First the chicken… We got the half chicken in the Hot. they warned us that it was TRULY hot. It was truly hot. But the heat wasn’t as nuanced as Howlin Rays, it was more like a really good chili blend. Further it wasn’t hot HOT. You had a really nice burn. No pain so we enjoyed every bite of chicken without things building up to hot HOT.
What made the chicken better than Gus’s for us was that it wasn’t overly salty, greasy and the breast was very well cooked and juicy.
The side we ordered were the French Fries. We love Crinkle Cut and sadly they were a little under done. So I would for sure ask them to be extra crispy next time. The Mac and Cheese had a really nice cheese flavor. But they used their herb mix in it which isn’t bad. Just odd. The Kale Slaw was standard, but very fresh and nice. It was my favorite of the three even though generally I don’t like sweet slaws like this.
My favorite overall item of the meal however was the fish. You got three really nice CRISPY pieces of fish. This we got int he California Mild, which had some heat but it worked really well. You have to ask for Tartar Sauce… But they are happy to give it to you!
The other item I REALLY enjoyed was their “Fruit Tea” which was a milder sweet tea with a scoop of fruit cocktail in it. OMG, a total Ratatouille moment when I realized what exactly it was (At first I thought it was just pineapple chunks or something at the bottom of my glass). My family growing up… it was not a party unless someone made punch with fruit cockail swimming in it. In fact, Fruit Cocktail made several appearances in all the big parties of my 80s childhood.
I will be back… for that fish and tea especially.
Again, it was kinda slow in terms of the number of people who were coming (The smallish restaurant was about half full). But not slow in the service. They did warn us that the Fish would take a little bit (20 minutes they appologized), but it was more like 10 minutes. We had just seen a movie so we had plenty to chat about before the meal came.
We were tempted by but did not try the desserts. Also it’s straight down from Southern Girl Bakes, so one can meander over there for something too cool your mouth out afterwards.
Cool, good report! We just gotta’ temper the Howlin’ Ray’s expectations. Ohhh and I Southern Girl’s Sweet Potato Cupcake with the caramelized sweet potato garnish!
Hopefully @Chowseeker1999 took a quick day trip back to Thailand to follow up on the McD Chicken!!
LA Magazine put this place as the #1 hot chicken in LA, with Howlin’ coming in at #3! Balderdash…
Thanks. That’s horrendous. That’s like putting a mediocre, white-washed, wanna-be “Izakaya” on a Best 101 Restaurants list and leaving off all of the great Izakaya in L.A.
Maybe lamag saw our hot takes thread and wanted in?
Re: LA Mag, I wonder how much of the rankings were influenced by the compelling narrative of Hotville being a familial offshoot of Prince’s, the apparent OG of Nashville hot chicken, which in turn points to questions of authenticity and cultural ownership/appropriation, which Dave Chang touches upon in his ugly delicious episode on fried chicken. I think it is a culturally significant that Hotville opened shop in Baldwin Hills, a predominately Black neighborhood, whereas Howlin Rays is located in an area that is quickly gentrifying. In my visit, the majority of patrons were Black and all their employees appeared to be Black. I think the latter is great, but I also hope Hotville brings in more business and a more diverse (racially and economically) clientele from others parts of LA to that area, like what the taco scene is doing for East and South LA.
With that said, taste wise, there is a sophistication to Howlin Ray’s method of cooking chicken that stands alone in my opinion. Howlin Rays’ breast piece is a food engineering marvel. I don’t know how they get it so juicy and tender, and to stay juicy and tender even after I bring it home and reheat (using a air fryer).
How appropriate that Daves is #2 on lamag list because they always been a second choice to Howlin Rays…
Hi @boynamedsue -
I agree, it’s significant. Thank you! But the demographic is slightly different. Half a mile south/west of Baldwin Hills is View Park-Windsor Hills. It’s one of the wealthiest African-American neighborhoods in the U.S. A diverse clientele is a bonus but maybe not a must. Non-black folks are starting to move back to the area, but not to gentrify - the homes are already big & beautiful with fab views. In other words they’re joining the already established gentry.
I think if Hotville is doing mediocre business it’s because they had erratic hours even after the soft opening. A few of my friends said they got tired of trying to figure out when they were open. Based on this I think it will take time to grow their customer base now that they’re fully up & running. Looking forward to reports.
Happy Hot Chicken Eating!
What the hell… How does this place warrant a NY Times piece when Howlin Rays has been putting out pure amazingness for years…
I know, I don’t begrudge Ms Prince’s publicity at all. But I was also disappointed in the LA Mag list. It’s one of the few mags I still like & buy but that was really disappointing.
i think the nytimes article has more to do with the connection to the Prince family.
I’m sure Howlin Ray’s doesn’t need a review from the nytimes since they’re already so popular.
Don’t you think LA collectively would roll their eyes and be like “there goes nytimes jumping on the bandwagon of the Howlin Rays phenomenon”?
i hope this didn’t sound like i was trying to be mean
Nope, I think you’re right. Good point.
The streetz need that Chowseeker review now, more than ever!
I don’t know about that. S/he is a rabid Howlin’ Ray’s fan. This could get ugly.
Still waiting with popcorn on stand-by.
@TheCookie. Thanks for raising awareness of that region of our city. I’ve heard anecdotally that Baldwin Hills is like the “Beverly Hills” for Black people, but I’m not too familiar with the area beyond that. My impression of the area is limited to when I used to periodically drive through Crenshaw on my commute. I visited the mall once, and although it looked like it was nice at one point, it looked dated, and some of the the neighboring buildings/stores/restaurants along Crenshaw also looked dated and somewhat run down. I don’t recall seeing many new developments in that area, not until Inglewood with the new stadium.
View Park Windsor Hills is an old development built by Ahmanson. Originally it had restricted covenants but was sued under the FHA. It became one of the only places where wealthy and upper middle class black homeowners could buy a house. Many of those houses have been remodeled and the demographics of the community are changing. I don’t know how much of the community would be willing to go to the Crenshaw Mall. They didn’t for Post and Beam but fried chicken with that kind of pedigree is a different matter. I hope they do.