For those with a masochistic palette, Chinatown’s revived Far East Plaza on Broadway has everything you need: papaya salad at Pok Pok and Nashville hot chicken at newly opened Howlin’ Ray’s next door. (If the dishes are too hot to handle, Nutella green tea ice cream at Scoops or a vanilla, pandan-infused latte at Endorffeine can help cool the tongue.)
Despite the fusion and superfood craze that still runs rampant in the city, Howlin’ Ray’s opened last April with a mission to bring back tradition in the form of local, organic fried chicken and community.
“Honestly, we just fell head over heels in love with hot chicken, and we just couldn’t stop thinking about it,” said co-owner Amanda Chapman about unexpectedly opening a restaurant with her husband. “It was just one of those things where you have two people at a place in their lives where they were both willing to take a huge risk on the same thing at the same time,” she added.
The 500-square-foot brick-and-mortar started out as a food truck operated by Chef Johnny Ray Zone and his wife Chapman in 2015. Once the lease ended, the “I Got My Hot Chicken in L.A.” restaurant came to being.
“The transition from the truck to the brick-and-mortar was a very interesting time, but we were so determined to get it done,” said Chapman.
Hot chicken, which looks like spicy Taiwanese salt and pepper popcorn chicken, is a dish dunked in hot oil and loaded with cayenne pepper. Howlin’ Ray’s essentialist menu serves: a white chicken breast and wing for $9 and a dark chicken leg and thigh for $8, among other chicken combos. For those susceptible to acid reflux, there’s the Peach Tea for $3 or the no heat “Country” chicken option. The coveted hot chicken and waffles for $14 are available weekends only.
“The Sandwich” at Howlin’ Ray’s is comparable to fellow newbie Birdies on West Olympic Boulevard, which sells the combo for $10 with a fried chicken breast Sandwich, coleslaw, ghost pepper mayo, Tillamook pepper jack and cured pickles.
Howlin’ Ray’s place is only open five hours a day, or at least until the last chicken wing is served. According to Chapman, 1,500 pounds of chicken are served every week from Mary’s ‘Air Chilled’ Chicken, sourced from the Pitman Family Farms in Sanger.
The restaurant is named after Zone’s father who was a 3D comic artist. Zone pursued a gig at Sean Brock’s Husk in Nashville, where he discovered the city was notorious for its hot chicken. He sampled many recipes from places such as 400 Degrees, Prince’s, Hattie B’s and Bolton’s on the quest to find the perfect balance of spicy sweetness and savoriness.
Howlin’ Ray’s is open Wednesdays to Sundays from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at 727 N Broadway, #128. For more info., visit: www.howlinrays.com.