Dave’s Hot Chicken Has a Welcoming East Hollywood Space and Really Good Nashville-Style Chicken

Three buddies are serving up mammoth chicken tenders that’ll leave a red ring around your mouth
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Dave’s Hot Chicken opened in a dimly lit parking lot in East Hollywood in May 2017. At the time, the operation consisted of little more than a yellow pop-up tent over a few plastic folding tables, three people, two fryers, and one menu item: a Nashville-style fried chicken combo plate.

The plate came with white bread, fries, kale slaw, and two tenders of Nashville hot chicken, the cayenne-heavy, spicy fried chicken with a crisp red crust that has recently set L.A. ablaze. By the end of last year, that one menu item had propelled the three founders—Arman Oganesyan, Tommy Rubenyan, and David Kopushyan— off of the blacktop and into their very own restaurant in a sidewalk-adjacent corner of a strip mall on Western.

In the new space, as in the parking lot before it, the food is outstanding. The mammoth chicken tenders are thick and juicy, with the sharp crunch of batter and the intense heat that the style demands. It will leave a red ring around your mouth, dust under your fingernails, and one or two crimson spots in places you won’t notice until the next day. It’s almost impossible to resist tearing through the chicken while it’s still too hot, singing your fingers and tongue.

 At first, the sides may seem a little beside the point, but when you come crashing down off the crest of a spice-powered wave, a handful of fries and a bite of cool kale slaw is a sturdy life raft. And since they’ve moved into a restaurant, options have expanded a bit. Now the chicken is available at six different spice levels, from no-heat Country to devastating Reaper, and you can order your tenders as sliders, served on two squishy, buttery buns.

As the quality of the food indicates, this wasn’t a thrown-together enterprise. Dave’s Hot Chicken was actually born months before its parking lot launch, when friends Oganesyan, Rubenyan, and Kopushyan quit their respective day jobs to develop their own recipe for Nashville hot chicken.

They’d been thinking about opening a fried chicken restaurant for some time—“Fried chicken was always my favorite food,” Oganesyan says—but they wanted to do something a little different, and the Nashville style resonated with them. Kopushyan—the eponymous Dave—is the head chef and the one with professional kitchen experience, but they all pitched in to work on the recipe, tweaking the spice blend, the batter, and the frying style until it was just right.

 When they were finally satisfied with the product, they looked for the cheapest possible way to launch, which led them to the hyper-minimal setup in a parking lot furnished by one of Rubenyan’s connections. They got an Instagram account, posted a flattering picture with a few mostly relevant hashtags, and turned on the lights. Between their skilled marketing—Oganesyan’s forte—and the city’s insatiable desire for Nashville hot chicken, word got out. Within a few weeks their popularity had exploded, both online and in real life.

 At its peak, the wait at the parking lot stand stretched more than an hour, but the time never dragged. It was always a party, a communal experience where you couldn’t quite tell whether everyone already knew each other or had just become fast friends debating whether the white bread should be folded like a tortilla around the tenders or nibbled between bites of chicken to soak up some spice.

The friendly vibe they cultivated kept customers happy as wait times ballooned. In the new space that means thumping music, cans of beer, and TVs showing Lakers games, Family Guy, and Friends, things you might have on in the background at home.

The guys shout and laugh and stay open late; the menu is straightforward and, above all else, fun. And if you come at the end of the night, when just a few patrons are scattered throughout the restaurant and the parking lot is mostly empty, you may catch the owners and their team chowing down on the last few tenders. Fried chicken’s their favorite food, after all.

Dave’s Hot Chicken, 970 N. Western Ave., East Hollywood.


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