Let's make one thing perfectly clear: I f*cking love fried chicken.
Wings, most notably, though each crispy and spicy variation of fried breasts, thighs and drumsticks is more-than-chill in my book. The affection I exude for the comestible collision of poultry, hot sauce, herbs and spices has yet to wain in my 20-plus years of dipping said esculent delight in ranch dressing -- or not sometimes, before putting it into my face repeatedly.
Which is why, when I was invited to the grand opening party for Howlin' Ray's -- a Los Angeles-based purveyor of Nashville Hot Chicken vis-à-vis a food truck, now expanding into a brick and mortar location in Chinatown -- I, low key, almost had a heart attack.
"Soooo down," I thought to myself, as I RSVP'd a (heeell) "yes."
The popularity and seemingly overnight success of Howlin' Ray's speaks to the power of social media marketing; but mostly it conveys the notion that people are tired of eating sh*tty food.
Sure, fried chicken is ubiquitous in Los Angeles, and a large percentage of it is amazing. Many a night have been spent up to my elbows in chicken bones and takeout boxes that originated in a Koreatown kitchen; the recipe book of someone's grandmother.
But Howlin' Ray's offers a unique product that really can't be found anywhere else in the city, at least not with as much authenticity.
As Kansas City (and a few dozen other Southern cities) claim barbecue as their own, Nashville is birthplace of this style of fried chicken, which draws its heat and flavor from a rub/sauce combo that is a calculated ratio of hot and sweet and balling as hell.
The Los Angeles Times said of the spicy-and-departed bird/HR's main event,
At its core, Howlin' Ray's hot chicken is good fried chicken.
The Times isn't wrong. It is, indeed, good chicken. Moist chicken. Fresh chicken. Literally the opposite of Kentucky Fried Chicken, though the fast food megacorp now slangs its own shameful version of Nashville Hot Chicken. Which, has not surprisingly been met with chagrin by anyone with taste buds.
The owners and brains behind the deep-fried endeavor, Johnny Zone and Amanda Chapman, seem equally as genuine. And as demonstrated by the move to Chinatown and the little time it took for Howlin' Ray's to blow up on Instagram, it's safe to say a demand for the Tennessee-a-la-streets-of-LA delicacy exists.
Not to mention, being surrounded by such a food has long been one of my dreams. Come visit LA and check out Howlin' Ray's for yourself.