Howlin’ Ray’s is a very popular spot in Los Angeles that serves Nashville hot chicken. The tiny store has long lines from opening until close, with people waiting patiently for their famous hot chicken and chicken sandwiches.
Hot chicken is a Nashville specialty. It starts with marinated chicken, fried until crunchy and then brushed with a cayenne pepper paste. We fell in love with hot chicken when we visited Nashville two years ago and so we were very curious about the version at Howlin’ Ray’s.
We stopped in on a recent trip to Los Angeles. The restaurant is a little hard to find, tucked inside one of the buildings in Chinatown. The store closes at 4 PM but when we arrived a few minutes before closing, there were still about 30 people in line. Eventually, someone came over to cut off the line at 4 PM.
The most popular item is their fried chicken sandwich. Many proclaim it to be the best fried chicken sandwich they’ve ever eaten. The sandwich consists of a thick fried chicken breast, slaw, comeback sauce, pickles and a butter bun. You get to choose the heat level for your chicken. We were advised by several people that anything above medium would be physically painful and I wasn’t willing to suffer. We decided to get mild.
The sandwich was indeed quite good. The hot chicken was moist and juicy, balanced nicely with the slaw and pickles. The butter bun was especially buttery and paired well with the chicken. However, we were surprised by how mild the mild heat level was. Despite the flaming red color, the chicken was barely spicy.
We also got crinkle cut fries, dusted in cayenne pepper.
Dark Leg + Thigh
I also wanted to try the fried chicken by itself. For this one, we ordered medium heat, which is the next level up after mild. This was a lot spicier. While the mild heat had me wanting more, the medium heat level had me gasping for water. The flavor of the fried chicken was good, but it was definitely very spicy.
I’m not sure if this is because we got this one to-go, but the chicken wasn’t as crunchy as I had hoped. When we had hot chicken in Nashville, it was always very crunchy, even though it’s brushed with the cayenne pepper paste after it is fried. Here, it seemed the cayenne paste had softened the skin, but this may have been because we weren’t able to eat it immediately.
Overall, we did enjoy our chicken, especially the chicken sandwich. It’s not quite the best fried chicken sandwich I’ve eaten, but it is up there as one of my favorites. However, I didn’t feel the chicken was quite as good as the hot chicken we had in Nashville. As you recall, we visited Hattie B’s in Nashville a few years ago and I fell in love with their version of hot chicken. I haven’t quite found anything like it since, but I do think that Howlin’ Rays serves a solid version.
727 N Broadway #128, Los Angeles, CA 90012