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Waiting in line at Howlin’ Ray’s Hot Chicken

food, tour, hollywood
I finally made it to Howlin’ Ray’s to wait in line for their Nashville-style Hot Chicken!  Howlin’ Ray’s has been in ALL the foodie news for the past year or so and it was only a matter of time before I got to the Howlin’ Ray’s brick and mortar location in Downtown LA, Chinatown to be exact.  It wasn’t just that Howlin’ Ray’s was named in The Top 10 Best New Restaurants of 2016 by Los Angeles Magazine.  But EVERY single comment, blog and review I have read made me want to eat this hot chicken.  Howlin’ Ray’s is closed on Monday and Tuesday which interestingly is when I do a good majority of my foodie research.  This visit was months in the making, and I will just say in advance was worth every bit of both anticipation, time waited in line and bite of hot chicken!
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Howlin’ Ray’s came to life as a food truck and in June 2016 opened shop in the Far East Plaza in Downtown LA’s Chinatown neighborhood.  After being introduced to the charms of Nashville style hot chicken, Johnny Ray Zone and his wife Amanda, realized this was a concept they wanted to bring to Los Angeles.  And charming it is!
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I met foodie pals Angela and Allen for a Friday of hot chicken fun.  When I got in line at 10:00am there were already over 30 people waiting.  By the time the doors opened at 11am, there were just over 100 people snaked through the plaza.  But the time was well-spent, visiting with the other hungry people, surveying how many times people had waited in line.  One guy told me he has been there at least six times!  Most people though were first-timers like us.  Another exciting thing during our wait time was watching people come in and pick up massive to-go orders.  It seemed to be groups of office co-workers and as I sauntered over to see what was going on, I found out the minimum online order is ten orders of hot chicken.  The people I spoke with had put their order in more than two weeks prior, that’s how long the wait is!
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When we finally got up to the counter, more excitement met us.  Everyone was SO friendly and happy.  When the chefs saw me filming they got in on the act and offered me a special greeting.  I asked which one of them was Howlin’ Ray and they pointed to a tall gentleman who was not behind the counter but in the waiting area greeting guests.  So I got to say hello to Johnny and he couldn’t have been sweeter.  You can see in the photo the six different levels of heat from no heat to can’t touch this.  One food blogger had suggested it was a good idea to treat yourself on a first visit to the no heat so you could get the full effect of the deliciously moist chicken and crunchy skin.  But I wanted a little heat so I got the second level, which is mild aka brush of heat.  And was it good!  The pickles and French fries were a fun bonus but that chicken was all that was needed to make us happy.  Tender, moist, just the right amount of crunch.  And that gorgeous red skin!!  The peach tea was a perfect partner with the chicken.  Most people were ordering sandwiches but we all wanted to enjoy the chicken on its own so ordered the Skinny Jimmy boneless breast plates.  I understand the space next door has opened up and Howlin’ Ray’s grabbed it for expansion, and they’ll need it.  There are other good chicken places in LA, with Gus’s Famous being up there, but Howlin’ Ray’s Nashville-style hot chicken is something that I thought about for days afterward.  Wished I had gotten a second plate to bring home for dinner!
By Trish Procetto
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