Two Howlin’ Rays Cooks Flew the Coop and Opened a Hot Chicken Joint of Their Own

A pair of Valley natives are bringing their passion for fried chicken to the new NoHo brick-and-mortar Humble Bird
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When San Fernando Valley natives Louis Silva and Brandon Waldrop first started slinging Nashville-style hot chicken in a parking lot on Vineland Avenue back in March, they traded shifts cooking and kept customers abreast of their irregular hours via Instagram. Just four months later—after a slew of sold-out pop-ups around L.A. and a big win at the Rock ‘N Roll Foodie’s Fried Chicken Competition in August—Humble Bird opened as a brick-and-mortar restaurant on Burbank Boulevard in North Hollywood.

There’s a hot chicken joint on pretty much every corner of L.A. from Chatsworth to Santa Monica these days, but Humble Bird has a connection to the granddaddy of them all. While Silva and Waldrop originally met in middle school, they decided to strike out on their own while working side by side at Howlin’ Rays, the Chinatown hot chicken spot known in pre-pandemic times for having waits as long as three hours.

Humble Bird’s menu has some similarities to the menu at Howlin’ Rays, but Silva and Waldrop have made additions like potato salad and mac and cheese, and are putting their original spin on the style. Humble Bird offers a take on popcorn chicken called Nashville Nugs, which comes in a movie-style popcorn tub. They also have a Humble melt, the classic chicken sandwich except on grilled toast with a piece of cheese to go with it.

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The popcorn chicken at Humble Bird comes in a popcorn-style tub.

While working at Howlin’ Rays, Silva had his own secret-menu item entitled “Louis Fries,” in which fries were topped with small bites of chicken, coleslaw, tangy comeback sauce, and pickles. At Humble Bird, Louis Fries have become Humble Fries; the main difference is some cheddar cheese added to the mix.

Both Silva and Waldrop credit Howlin’ Rays owner and head chef, Johnny Ray Zone, with inspiring how they run the business and how they approach food. According to the duo, Zone has been nothing but supportive of their venture and has even checked in on how things are going at Humble Bird.

“That’s how [Zone] brought us up. He was always very welcoming of other hot chicken spots. He was always very humble,” Waldrop says.

In terms of the food, Waldrop and Silva were exposed to Zone’s award-winning recipe but they also travelled to Nashville together with their fellow employees to experience the source of hot-chicken culture.

“Once you actually go to Nashville, it’s not just about the food. It’s the hospitality and everything there. That’s what makes you fall in love with hot chicken,” Silva says.

Silva and Waldrop are fully in love with hot chicken, and they continue to spread that love in the Valley. Friends and family have supported Humble Bird since the beginning and even work at the business from time to time. Waldrop’s girlfriend, Michelle Pulido, frequently works the register; sometimes his mother, Melanie Waldrop, helps out too.

“We’re so blessed with all the support from my family, from Louis’s family,” Waldrop says. “It’s so warming when we get locals in here who are neighbors or old friends from high school.”

“The locals have been showing a lot of love,” Silva says. “The Valley is our home.”


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