I used to pass by this on Cesar Chavez, invariably on my way to Olvera Street or Little Tokyo, until the signs got larger, darker and more vibrant so that they could not be ignored.
Corrugated metal covers the walls, ornamented with Dodger pennants and license plates from other states. The breathy hiss of exposed air conditioning ducts is drowned out only by the electric blues ambling from the speakers. A small room with racks of small-brewery beers can be seen in the back. On each table is a paper towel roll, packets of lemony towelettes, and an unopened loaf of Town Talk white bread, ready for soaking and swiping.
One can power through a number of their specialties with the Sampler Plate, basically a sauce-draped tray of carnivore-bait. The Hot Links have a gritty attitude, dark and moody inside from somehow having soaked up juices. I finished them first.
I usually don't get ribs because eating them is hell on facial hair, and these do not disappoint that particular conceit; I am thankful for the paper towels. The Spare Ribs are big girders of still-pink pork, not falling off the bone but willing to be convinced. They could be left on the grill to get a little more burnt around the ends for my taste.
The Pulled Brisket is good, tender with a fatty cap and smoky, but since I unfairly compare everything to the Passover brisket made by the mother of a good friend, I withhold any claim of beefy brilliance. The Smoked Chicken, though, is probably the strongest item here, hidden under everything else. Just shy of fork-tender but not shy at all, the chicken is the most willing to soak up the sauce and create a new personality.
Spring Street bills itself mostly as Carolinean, but the barbecue sauce has, in my opinion, a Texan vibe, darker and not as runny. The spicy sauce is sassy but not painful, and benefits from a few shakes of Trappey's pepper sauce.
The baked beans you see cringing behind the mound of spice-rubbed carnage are nice and seem homemade. Their french fries are solid, seasoned three-quarter-inch beams with a bit of crackle.
The Pulled Pork Sandwich is a good summer chowdown with some risk to your shirt. The spicy sauce is more strongly felt here, giving a slight burn to the lips; spread underneath the thumb-thick shreds of moist pork, it soaks through the long toasted bun. The chopped, blocky slaw on top adds a peppery cool. The sandwich does not want to be picked up after a few minutes of sauce-absorption.
The sincerity is here, but it does feel designed. The tables and chairs are too new, the smoky scent too crisp and fresh, the wood planks too undented to evoke the sense of bluesy-and-battered roadside joint. Give them a few years to chip the paint and scuff the floors, to create a nice black layer of char. For now, I appreciate the friendly zeal of the people here; it reminds me of Dave's Chillin-n-Grillin, young people with a real appreciation for meaningful comfort food.
There are three public parking lots within easy reach.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), East Side/Downtown, BBQ, American, Soul/Southern )
Someone's in the kitchen
4106 San Fernando Rd. Suite A (in Glendale)
Phone: 818-244-4188 | map
The high-contrast wall menu and the smattering of tables in back suggest a take-out demeanor, but there is usually a chair or two open for lunch. Outside is a giant old rotating bucket that I am not claiming was once something else.
Once past the counter there is dark wood, farm scenes, and ceramic roosters, as if Dinah was cooking in her kitchen one day and was gracious enough to invite us kids in for supper. On each table is a small container of what seems like a chutney but is a tangy apple butter.
There are a few basic items: chicken, fish, shrimp, gizzards, livers. I've had the food appear on my table almost a minute after ordering, so I suspect some heat-lampitude, but it hasn't detracted from my experience.
The fried chicken is darkly shiny, crackly and a bit sweet, its pale goodness peeling wetly from the bone. The chicken is not as much of an arterial bully as Roscoe's, being more pressure-cooked than fried, so it doesn't slow you down too badly when leaving.
I am not a fish & chips fan by any reckoning, so I am pleasantly surprised by the fried cod; there is some real flavor here that's lured out, pun intended, byt the subdued batter. It actually doesn't need the tartar sauce, which is a bit relish-heavy.
The sides are fair enough; the mashed potatoes are fluffy, the gravy a cream-of-mushroom color with a peppery bite. It, like the fried chicken batter, smacks of buttermilk. The macaroni and cheese is soft, without baked crust or crumbs, and is quite good but still benefits from hot sauce. The dinner rolls are warm but from the store.
There is a Dinah's in Culver City as well, with suspiciously similar chicken and more of a coffee shop persona. While the two are birthed from the same group of families (the Dinah's in Glendale has been owned by the Pearsons since the year I was born), they aren't really connected.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock, American, Soul/Southern )
Normally I get real suspicious of the word contemporary. When I hear "contemporary" bandied about I think trendy blonde-wood-and-chrome Scandinavian furniture, placid beige walls, and paint-spatter paintings pretending to have meaning.
However, combined with the words "soul," "food" and "joint" it creates a syncopation, a rhythm of scent and taste.
The building is an old Craftsman style home, kept homelike with mismatched furniture and dark hardwood floors. Some old-school soul and R&B plead from the speakers. The drinks arrive in mason jars, but you may find the homemade lemonade eye-crossingly sweet; ask for Americana root beer, sweet tea, or a bottle of Jamaica's Finest Ginger Beer.
Larkin Mackey has done his studying, stayed humbly aware of the roots of soul food, and somehow pulled it off. Larkin's is not like walking into a sultry, steam-shrouded hole in the wall somewhere in Georgia, nor is it a sellout offering "soul food with a California twist" or anything offensive like that. The food is offbeat, but fantastic. Your grandmother from New Orleans may grumble, though.
The Good 'Ole Fried Chicken is an odd bird; it seems to have been baked a bit first, due to the darkened skin underneath the crumbly, brown sugar tang of the fry batter, or perhaps it is oven-fried. The chicken retains a finger-glistening moisture, however, and is darned good. The hot links in the Hot Link Po'Boy are properly snappy and juicy, with a spicy growl.
The red beans and rice are different as well, the beans firm, the rice soaked with more than bean juice; there is a Latin flair somewhere inside. The Spicy Sautéed Greens are not the greens you expect, being collard greens mixed with tomatoes, red pepper, garlic and cayenne, so you won't get your yellowish-green Juice of the Gods at the bottom that all kids should drink to stay well. They are, however, quite flavorful--and benefit well from generous shakes from the bottle of Trappey's Louisiana Hot Sauce at attention nearby.
Hello, what's this? A deep-fried grilled cheese? Mercy sakes alive.
Larkin's is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but otherwise is now, thankfully, open for lunch. There is a single parking spot in front, four in back, but otherwise the quiet streets of Eagle Rock should suffice.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock, American, Soul/Southern, Cajun/Creole )
I'm sure pretty much the entire swath of boulevards running down the southern west coast is now a series of trendmaking corporate party dives, made for denim skirts, drinks with poppy names, and saying "whooo!" very loudly.
Cafe Boogaloo is a little different, having been there for over a dozen years and bringing far better food and music. It has the drinks with the poppy names (the Cajun Martini has jabañero infused vodka, but I'd go with the traditional Hurricane), but brings a gourmet touch to its unpretentious atmosphere*.
If you're tucked into one of the small tables near the front, you'll have to yell at your dining partner over the blues, New Orleans soul, or zydeco played from the stage, but that's the charm of it. The sounds are great, and the food is incredible. (On our first visit, we nodded heads to T-Lou and his Zydeco Band, playing from their new-at-the-time album Super Hot. Bona fide NOLA.)
Louisiana cuisine is already ridiculous in how savory it is, and the Boogaloo kitchen takes it a step farther**. How about red beans and rice with wood-grilled Andouille sausage? Or cornmeal-crusted catfish with a chipotle remoulade? Those are sides. Dinner choices will have you chewing your fingernails: Catfish, BBQ chicken, or roast beef "debris" po boys. House-smoked duck, mushroom and Andouille sausage gumbo. Jambalaya, o'course. With roasted garlic mashed potatoes or grilled Texas cornbread.
By this point we're stupid, and while completely unable to devour more food, we toy with the idea of the key lime pie with Macadamia nut and coconut crust, or the flourless chocolate cake with berry coulis.
They have a Sunday brunch if you want to hurt yourself some more.
* There is a sign that says "Absolutely No Mustang Sally". Which is fine with me. Even B.B. King can't make me want to listen to it.
** I won't say "kick it up a notch." I won't.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), American, Soul/Southern, Cajun/Creole, Southwest/Beach Cities )
God bless Herb Hudson.
Does this seem like an odd mix of foods to you? It shouldn't. It's an old combination, maybe from the late 1700s. And anyway, the concept of letting typically breakfast vs. dinner foods slide together in a hazy late-night ritual is perfectly appropriate for nocturnally oriented urban residents.
You can find better fried chicken. You can find better waffles. You cannot find a better combination than what they do here. Sweet + Fried == Synthesis of Homeric greatness. The chicken brings memories, fried chicken that rings true. Bianca even eats the skin, and Bianca never eats fried chicken skin. The waffles are large, flat and dense, not the cookie-cutter fluffy round affairs every other breakfast restaurant offers. Cut a bite of chicken, cut a bite of waffle, impale them both, dip in syrup, and begin your gentle self-torment.
I like the Sunrise (orange juice and lemonade), bright and eye-opening. The Sunset (fruit punch and lemonade) throws Bianca back to seven years old, sipping from a cup held in with both hands on a hot South Central L.A. or Detroit porch.
There are sides, if you're careful enough to keep your poultry and batter intake down. The greens are dripping and robust, made for generous shakes of the hot sauce and drinking down the juice afterward. The mac & cheese is baked, slightly puckery and crumbly. Proper. There is also hot water corn bread for simplicity.
After you've pushed yourself away from the table, the rest of your day is like starting from a dead stop in fourth gear. With the air conditioning on.
The Roscoe's on Gower is, I believe, the original 1976 location. Parking is not comfortable, nor easy. There's also another spot on Pico, in Inglewood (on Manchester), in Pasadena (on Lake), and in Long Beach (on Broadway), which has a jazz bar connected with it.
Hmm... their website is totally one of those bought-online Flash templates, or I'm no Web designer.
Note from Bianca: Church.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Hollywood, American, Soul/Southern )