photo credit: Holly Liss
In a city as big as LA, restaurants tend to get divided into two categories: restaurants you go to, and restaurants you hear about. Restaurants you go to are the easy ones - they're the places you enjoy that are usually located within your bubble. Restaurants you hear about are those often difficult, far-flung places your annoying coworkers rave about, but deep down you know it’ll take a miracle (and a very free Saturday) for you to ever experience.
Howlin’ Ray's is that place you've definitely heard about. The Nashville hot chicken joint started out as a food truck a few years back, but now has a permanent setup inside Chinatown’s Far East Plaza. And while the brick and mortar location might be more convenient than a roving truck, if you've been to Chinatown lately, you know it's still not the easiest place to navigate (or find parking). Plus, with operating hours best described as scattered (11am-4pm, closed Mondays and Tuesdays), unless you work downtown, chances are you haven't been able to swing by yet. So what gives? Is Howlin’ Ray's destined to just be a place you always hear about?
It better not.
photo credit: Holly Liss
Because there comes a point while waiting in (the probably very long) line - right when you can finally glance into their small, modern digs and see everyone working their asses off - that it hits you. Who gives a sh*t about the hassle? Sure this place might be popular, but they know exactly what they're doing. And as you get closer, hearing all the line cooks shouting "Yes, chef!" like minions to the fried chicken lord, you realize this is something you'll happily give up a Saturday for.
Once you finally get to the register, figure out your spice levels (godspeed to anyone who tries anything over “hot”), find a seat at the counter, and take your first bite, it’s confirmed: Howlin’ Ray's is definitely amazing. Your mouth is scorched (and will be for the afternoon), but you don’t care. You’re positive that’s some of the best chicken you’ve ever had, and it's worth some pain. You can go all-in on some dark and white pieces, grab a whole bird with a couple friends, or stack it all between two buns - it doesn’t matter how you do it. Howlin' Ray’s hot chicken is tremendous across the board.
So don't let that annoying coworker have all the glory. Make Howlin' Ray's a place you get to. Immediately.
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Anyone who’s ever eaten chicken before knows dark (wings, thigh, etc.) is the obvious way to go. $8 might seem steep for a few pieces, but you’ll survive. That is unless you order anything over “hot" - this is the kind of spicy you need to take seriously. We won’t judge if you stick to the “country style” or “mild," because we want you to enjoy the best chicken in LA comfortably. Be safe out there.
Another day, another fried chicken sandwich, right? Wrong. This baby is the true king of the city right now, and we don’t see his perch crumbling anytime soon. Boneless breast chicken, coleslaw, pickles, and something they call “comeback sauce” all smashed between two butter buns. If that reads like erotica to you, you’re on our level.
Hot Shake Fries
Though zero parts milkshake, these guys are straight-up addiction fuel. Old-school crinkle cut (the best cut) and tossed in a very mild spice. MORE MORE MORE.
Look, no one drives to Chinatown to eat vegetables at a fried chicken joint, but the point here is if you do, they’re going to be way better than you think. And for a place that boasts about the quality of their ingredients elsewhere on the menu, take this as a very good sign.