I survived a one-day fried chicken crawl in L.A. Here’s where to go
The goal was to hit as many female-run restaurants serving fried chicken in a day as possible. We made it to 10.
You may have seen El Gallo cruising the streets of Santa Monica. He’s a canary yellow 1973 Oldsmobile 98, with a rooster head bolted to the roof of the car and a curved feathery tail attached to the trunk. His deep red, wavy cockscomb adds an extra foot to the top of his head.
Or, you may have heard him. At stoplights, or whenever owner Tommy Kendall sees people gawking, he plays the “Chicken Techno” song, loud, out of an exposed CD player he installed in the glove compartment. It involves a series of clucks, squawks, bucks and crows layered over electronic music. A deep voice repeats “tasty” throughout the song. People stop, stare, laugh, whip out their phones and give an exorbitant number of thumbs-ups.
On a recent Wednesday, National Fried Chicken Day, I found myself in the back of El Gallo, humming “Chicken Techno.” I was on my way to the first stop on a 10-restaurant fried chicken crawl with Kim Prince, chef-owner of Hotville Hot Chicken restaurant at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.
The National Fried Chicken Day crawl was started in 2021 by Regarding Her, an all-female restaurant organization. (I serve on the grant committee that blindly selects grant recipients based on anonymous entries.) The goal is to hit as many female-run restaurants serving fried chicken in a single day as possible. This year, Kendall agreed to drive us around in El Gallo for the crawl.
At 11 a.m., Kendall parked El Gallo in front of Highly Likely, chef Kat Turner’s sun-drenched cafe in West Adams. We were there for a Li’l Chicky Sando (that’s the actual name). Turner breads and fries a breast of chicken with a tempura batter and layers it on a Kewpie-smeared milk bun with labneh, mint slaw and pickled red onion. It’s a first-rate chicken sandwich on a good, soft bun.
She also brought out a test version of a Buffalo fried chicken sandwich that’s yet to make it onto the menu. It involves drenching the fried chicken breast in tangy Buffalo sauce, then adding chunky blue cheese dressing. It’s a stellar order of Buffalo wings in sandwich form. Here’s hoping both are on the menu when you visit.
With our tongues still tingling from the Buffalo sauce, we piled back into El Gallo and headed to Gritz N Wafflez, Jurni Rayne’s brunch-anytime restaurant that operates out of a ghost kitchen in Pico-Union. Rayne walked us through her two-day brining process that involves a salt brine, then a buttermilk brine. The wings and tenders are breaded in a light, feathery coating for an extra craggy crust.
This is what I like to call drippy chicken. When you take a bite, the juice actually drips down your chin. We dipped our tenders into Rayne’s Creole gravy, a traditional thick gravy cut with her secret Creole seasoning blend. And I swiped a wing through her cheesy grits, which were rich, velvety and satisfyingly cheesy.
At this point I could have used a nap, but the crawl continued.
The next stop was Annie’s Soul Delicious, a soul-food restaurant in Little Ethiopia. If you’re in the mood for party wings, this is the place. Owner Annalisa Mastroianni Johnson makes Buffalo, jerk, BBQ, Nashville hot, lemon pepper, classic-fried and wings dripping in a sweet and boozy Hennessey sauce. The classic-fried are the gold standard and a favorite drizzled with Johnson’s hot honey. We felt it was our duty to try at least one of each flavor.
With the chicken sweats kicking in, we left for Banh Oui to taste one of the most Los Angeles fried chicken sandwiches in the city. Chef-owner Casey Felton created a sandwich that combines turmeric-stained chicken katsu, a garlic spread similar to the one everybody loves at Zankou Chicken and elements of a good banh mi, with pickled cucumbers and chiles, fresh herbs and paté. There’s kale slaw on there too.
We made the short trip up Cahuenga Boulevard over to Hollywood Boulevard for a stop at Harold’s Chicken Hollywood. You can imagine the stares and waves as we drove down the star-lined street squawking. It felt like we were aboard a parade float.
Inside Harold’s, we found another giant rooster, looming near the entrance of the restaurant. The Chicago-based chicken franchise is known best for its fried chicken and red sauce. We dug into an order of whole wings and fries completely drenched in mild sauce, a glowing red, sweet, ketchup-like concoction with a mild kick of vinegar. The coating was thin, crisp and golden, even under all that sauce. Wanting to survive the next five stops, we tried our hardest not to touch the fries, but half the basket was happily consumed anyway.
I was still wiping the sauce from my fingers with a wet wipe when we climbed back into El Gallo and headed west to Otus Thai Kitchen and Coffee on La Brea Avenue. When we arrived, chef-owner June Intrachat was in the middle of a busy afternoon service. Her servers rushed around the dining room wearing chicken hats for the occasion. We ordered the “happy chicken,” also known as Hat Yai fried chicken or Intrachat’s take on southern Thai fried chicken.
The chicken comes showered in fried shallots, and it’s hard to know where the fried alliums end and the skin begins. It really doesn’t matter. We used our hands to break off pieces of sticky rice, dunked the chicken into a sweet chili sauce and eagerly shoved bites into our mouths like we hadn’t just visited five other restaurants on the way over.
Because it was a chicken holiday, Intrachat also prepared a special dish of fried chicken skins with crème fraîche and caviar. It was as good as you’d imagine (the most elegant chip and dip), made better by the taut minerality and dryness of a glass of Christophe Mignon, Champagne Brut Nature ADN De Meunier, hand-selected by Jill Bernheimer of Domaine L.A. Bernheimer, her Champagne and the caviar might not be there every night, but you can order the happy chicken anytime.
Kendall steered El Gallo onto the 101 south over to Grand Central Market for our next two stops. Lucky Bird changed the city’s breakfast burrito landscape when Chris and Christine Dane introduced their fried chicken burrito in 2019. Chris sweats onions and jalapeños in chicken fat, then folds them into soft scrambled eggs. He adds cilantro, American cheese, fried Yukon gold potatoes and plenty of chopped fried chicken. It’s a superb amalgamation of ingredients and textures and it makes me wonder why more people don’t put fried chicken in breakfast burritos.
We also snacked on some fried chicken skins out of a paper bag. Pro tip: Shove some of the skins inside the burrito for extra crunch and drizzle on some hot sauce. Also, the burrito is available only on weekends.
Across the walkway and about five steps west is Shiku, Kwang Uh and Mina Park’s food stall specializing in dosirak and banchan. It’s a completely open kitchen, and on that day, there were mounds of fried chicken on the counter, fresh from the fryer.
Baroo’s wildly creative chef returns with Korean comfort food at Grand Central Market.
This is the kind of fried chicken I could eat by the bowl-full, cut into bite-sized pieces like nuggets with a barely-there crisp coating. It’s excellent on its own or in the Shiku KFC rice box. For the uninitiated, KFC means Korean Fried Chicken. It is not a reference to the colonel or his chicken. Uh piles the KFC over white rice with zigzags of Sriracha aioli, aji verde and galbi glaze. We managed to polish off most of the chicken and some of the rice before getting back into El Gallo to head to our next stop.
We cruised west on Sunset Boulevard to Ototo, or what my colleague, restaurant critic Bill Addison, calls “L.A.’s best sake bar.” It’s also known for its excellent karaage. You can usually find an order of Japanese fried chicken on the menu, lightly breaded and sprinkled with curry salt. For the holiday, there was an option to add Imperial Ossetra caviar and truffle crème fraîche. Instead of serving the additions on the side, the crème fraîche and caviar were combined into one luxurious, lumpy topping that was spread across the top of the chicken. The truffle was present but not overpowering and the caviar was salty and briny. It was decadent in a way that enhanced the chicken, though I’ll be satisfied with the naked chicken next time.
As the sun was setting, we drove to All Day Baby, Lien Ta and Jonathan Whitener’s Silver Lake restaurant. Seven hours and nine restaurants later, somehow, we were hungry for more chicken. It was the restaurant’s monthly fried chicken night. Each month, Whitener makes a different style of chicken. That night was devoted to chicken tenders.
Bill Addison reviews All Day Baby in Silver Lake
They looked more like fish and chips than tenders, served alongside cups of honey mustard and barbecue sauce. Whitener battered the chicken in a way that completely encased the tenders in a crunchy shell that broke off in large, satisfying tiles. It was the perfect end to a day fueled by poultry, adrenaline and little else.
Highly Likely Cafe, 4310 W. Jefferson Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 622-4550, itshighlylikely.com
Gritz N Wafflez, 1842 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 905-7822, gritznwafflez.com
Annie’s Soul Delicious, 1066 S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 424-7402, anniessouldelicious.com
Banh Oui, 1552 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 645-7944, banhoui.com
Harold’s Chicken Hollywood, 6523 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 645-7049, haroldschickenla.com
Otus Thai Kitchen and Coffee, 1253 N. La Brea Ave., West Hollywood, (323) 969-8611, otusthaikitchen.com
Lucky Bird, 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, luckybirdla.com
Shiku, 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, (213) 265-7211, shikulosangeles.com
Ototo, 1360 Allison Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 784-7930, ototo.la
All Day Baby, 3200 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 741-0082, alldaybabyla.com
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