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LA

Guide

The Best Hot Chicken In LA

13 spots to sweat, maybe cry, and enjoy some spicy chicken.

Written by
13 Spots
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13 Spots
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Updated August 11th, 2021

To some, Los Angeles might seem like the land of green juice, avocado toast, and kale salads. But LA also has a serious craving for Nashville-style hot chicken. We happen to be huge supporters of this movement and have spent much of the pandemic searching the far corners of the city for tender, juicy, and spicy hot chicken. In the end, our love for it only grew stronger, and we now consider it to be one of the three most essential food groups - along with bread and cheese.

If you’re looking for Nashville’s signature dry rub and crackling skin, you can definitely find it some 2,000 miles away in Los Angeles. However, several LA spots have used the traditional recipe as more of a blueprint for transforming this fiery chicken into something uniquely their own. Other cultures have their own versions of this dish as well, giving us plenty of options to choose from. So come hungry and bring hand wipes because these are the 13 best places to eat hot chicken right now.

THE SPOTS

Main Chick Hot Chicken

$$$$
$$$$ 20 E Union St

Main Chick Hot Chicken is a Pasadena chicken spot that has expanded its Nashville-style operation into multiple locations around town. The chicken here has a flavorful dry rub that really comes through on the first bite. Their tenders always come out piping hot (both temperature and spice-wise), so we recommend giving your chicken a moment to cool before digging in. It’s understandable if you can’t resist this fluorescent red chicken, but you might end up with some full-body sweats when the heat kicks in. We always go for the spicy leg quarters here, which are big portions generously brined for a little extra pop. Pair it with some white bread to mop up the extra sauce in your box, or maybe even pat your forehead if you can’t handle the heat.

Jay Bird's Chicken

$$$$
$$$$ 4150 McGowen St Ste 4

Hot chicken usually comes with a side of bread, pickles, and a creamy dish like mac and cheese, but Jay Bird’s in Long Beach decided to spare us the extra effort by throwing them all together into one chicken sandwich. The Macdaddy is not to be reckoned with, and consists of a juicy fried chicken breast topped with warm mac and cheese inside a brioche bun. The chicken here comes in six levels of spiciness with an extra crispy skin to balance out the mac. The vinegar-based slaw also adds a great acidic twist that cuts nicely through the hefty sandwich. But the Macdaddy still wouldn’t be complete without its tangy mayo-based Comeback sauce or Jay Bird’s cayenne-heavy “Big Sexy Sauce.” There’s no question that there’s a lot going on with this sando, but don’t assume the mac and cheese will save you if you go too hot. Yes, the creaminess helps curb the chicken’s heat, but think twice before going “Reaper Hot.”

Fritzi Coop

$$$$
$$$$ 6333 W 3rd St

Fritzi Coop serves excellent chicken from inside The Grove’s Farmers Market, ranging from their grilled “naked” style to full fried and spicy tenders. Their delicious Nashville hot chicken sandwiches begin with fresh brioche buns that are shiny enough to see your hungry reflection in. They then get filled with a big piece of crimson red chicken slathered in spicy oil, as well as a generous handful of jalapeno slaw that’s drenched in a red vinegar sauce. Some sweet pickles are tossed into the mix to turn down the heat before things take a turn for the dangerously spicy. Fritzi Coop also gets bonus points for ditching standard fries for some fresh curly fries and tater tots on the side, which you can dip into barbecue, Louisiana, buffalo sauce, or roasted garlic aioli.

Stark’s Hot Chicken

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Korean  in  Koreatown
$$$$ 207 S Vermont Ave

Korean fried chicken is a beautiful thing that both K-Town residents and frequent visitors hold near and dear to their hearts. And Stark’s Hot Chicken is an example of Nashville and Korean-style chicken fusing together to create something unique yet familiar, but still undeniably delicious. Their chicken’s dry rub forms an extra crispy skin in the fryer, while the meat remains tender and juicy underneath. Their sandwiches consist of pillowy brioche buns, hot chicken, briny coleslaw, and spicy mayo that’s the perfect balance between savory and sweet. Stark’s also serves a delicious spicy mac and cheese on the side with lots of smokey paprika and Korean dishes like hobakjuk (pumpkin soup) or popcorn chicken with rice cakes in gochujang sauce.

Daybird

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$$$$ 240 N Virgil Ave

At Daybird in Silverlake, the hot chicken sandwich looks less like the Nashville classic and more like a large serving of spicy Chongqing chicken. Rather than receiving several coatings of dry rub and chili oil, these boneless chicken breasts are dipped in oil that’s seasoned with chiles de arbol and Sichuan peppercorns. This sandwich is a bit deceiving because it doesn’t look blatantly spicy from its golden brown skin. However, don’t be fooled because the chicken packs a serious Sichuan kick. Daybird’s hot chicken sandwich has quickly become one of our lunchtime go-to’s with its sharp slaw consisting of chives, red peppers, and crunchy cabbage to complement the juicy chicken, which is some of the best we’ve had in a long time.

Fire Chicken

$$$$
$$$$ 3128 W 8th St

If you’re in the mood for some fried chicken, but can’t decide between hot and spicy or served with a waffle, look no further than Koreatown’s Fire Chicken. This Nashville-style chicken spot is known for its large portions and sizable waffle sandwiches, which are two things we can all support. This sweet and savory sandwich consists of two eggy American waffles filled with spicy chicken breasts, creamy slaw, and sweet pickles. The chicken here is always made to order, so expect it to come out hot and bright red from the dry rub. Their chicken also has a great crunchy skin that locks in the meat’s juices like a fancy sous-vide pouch. If you’re in the mood for something dunkable instead, their Fire Chicken box is a pile of boneless hot chicken bites that will make you wonder why you’d ever eat regular nuggets again.

Michindak

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Korean  in  Koreatown
$$$$ 3324 W 6th St

This Korean fried chicken stand at 6th and Catalina St. makes some of the tastiest chicken sandwiches in town. Their spice levels start off with the crispy original at zero before progressively getting more intense. Their medium is a casual “slap in the face,” the extra hot is apparently a “punch in the face,” and their Michin Spicy is, well, “spicy AF.” But aside from their chicken’s blazing heat, Michindak prepares their tenders in true Korean fashion with a double-fried, crackly skin that generously absorbs any sauce you slather on top. This food stand also has our favorite brioche buns in LA, which glisten under the sun as you get lost in the trance of city traffic and mind-altering spice. The McDak Combo 1 is the go-to and includes some spicy steak cut fries and a hot chicken sandwich with creamy coleslaw, large pickle slices, and their spicy mayo-based sauce for additional heat and mild sweetness.

Al's Hot Chicken

$$$$
$$$$ 10821 Venice Blvd

At just $6.95, you can get two sandwiches at Al’s Hot Chicken - one for now, and one for later when you realize you’ve become addicted to LA’s spiciest hot chicken. Here it comes with all the traditional characteristics of the Tennessee staple: strong cayenne flavor, crispy skin made from a fiery dry rub, and chili oil that fills all the nooks and crannies on every piece of chicken. Al’s Nash sandwich is topped with a lightly toasted bun filled with their secret sauce, a boneless breast, pickles, and a sweet yet crunchy slaw. Again, this place is a go-to for the tried and true, but keep in mind that the chicken here is seriously hot - one spice level even requires an actual waiver. This potentially hazardous chicken comes in at 2.2 million SHU, which is science lingo for, “Please think twice because your body might never forgive you.” You’ve been warned.

Bangin' Buns

$$$$ 1457 E Florence

Hot chicken has never been a very portable dish, unless you’re OK with spicy drippings streaming down your arms and face. But Bangin’ Buns’ choice of hotdog buns instead of traditional white bread or brioche makes these sandwiches the ultimate grab-and-go option. This Huntington Park spot serves some incredibly juicy tenders that come with a lighter spice marinade than the crimson red oil you’ll find at other hot chicken places. The heat is really concentrated underneath the chicken’s skin, which spares you the mess of spicy sauce seeping out of the bun. Bangin Buns’ sandwiches also come with a delicious homemade slaw that is mildly creamy but with a nice kick, and their Bangin’ sauce is another savory, mayo-based concoction that goes great on just about everything too. We like the texture contrast between the fried chicken and ultra-soft hotdog bun, but also love these spicy tenders all on their own with Bangin’s hot honey and ranch dip.

Crimson Coward

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Fast Food  in  Downey
$$$$ 10405 Lakewood Blvd

Now with a second location in Artesia, this popular hot chicken spot claims that the secret to their delicious hot chicken is their signature rub of over 30 spices. This complex mixture then gets smothered on the chicken a whole 24 hours before frying for a firey burst, bite after bite. The final result is a juicy boneless chicken breast with flaky skin and that Nashville kick that slowly creeps up on you, but that’s where the ties to tradition are cut short. Crimson Coward’s chicken breasts are on the thinner side and jut out from the sandwiches’ buns. And their stacked Homestyle sandwich is a spicy take on the classic grilled cheese with toasted white bread, American cheese, juicy hot chicken, coleslaw, pickles, and Crimson sauce. Cheese and spicy chicken might seem like an odd combo at first, but the cheese’s velvety melt adds some great creaminess to the crispy chicken. Also, when have we ever passed up a grilled cheese? Never.

Cluck & Blaze

$$$$
$$$$ 4501 E Carson St Ste 107

Offering some of the most unconventional chicken on this guide, Cluck & Blaze is an example of hot chicken adapting to LA. For a hearty, spicy, and cheesy breakfast, this spot’s monster-sized Nashville breakfast burrito is guaranteed to heal whatever you did to yourself the night before. Available at both Long Beach and Glendale locations, it’s filled with hot chicken that’s nicely fried on the outside, but still moist from generous slatherings of red chili oil. It also comes with scrambled eggs, shredded cheese, tater tots, a spicy cream sauce, and more sprinklings of the chicken’ spice rub for that little extra something. But to make things even more interesting, go ahead and order your burrito “Jerry-style,” which comes with over-easy eggs instead of scrambled. The whole thing then gets toasted on the griddle with a melted cheese crust that’s seared onto the tortilla because, well, why not?

Jakob Layman

Hotville Chicken

$$$$
$$$$ 4070 Marlton Ave

Hotville Chicken might be the closest you can get to the original Nashville-style this side of the Mississippi - or 405 Freeway. Kim Prince, owner of this Crenshaw spot, is the niece of André Prince Jeffries, founder of Nashville’s legendary Prince’s (a.k.a where hot chicken was born). The fried chicken here comes in thick pieces that are well seasoned until they turn a dark, almost maroon color. While this chicken is definitely spicy, note that it may take a few seconds for your senses to play catch-up. If you’re feeling a sandwich, order the Shaw, which comes on a toasted brioche bun with hot chicken at your desired spice level, a fresh kale slaw, and a savory cream sauce to balance out the cayenne heat. But if you want to enjoy hot chicken the Prince way, dig into a few red chicken legs with some pickles and white bread.

Howlin' Ray's

$$$$
$$$$ 727 N Broadway #128

This Chinatown spot has been widely credited for sparking LA’s love for hot chicken, with pre-pandemic wait times often reaching up to two hours. Today, you can get your Howlin’ Rays delivered and it still comes just as tender and spicy as always. Their fiery red chicken isn’t just for show though and it comes in a spectrum of spice levels ranging from comfortably hot to so-good-but-I-might-cry spicy. Their sandwich has the standard brioche bun, pickles, and swirl of a savory mayo-based sauce, but it’s their peppery slaw that adds a nice acidity to the whole thing.

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