Howlin’ Ray’s Hot Chicken Ditches the Truck to Heat up Hollywood

Fiery fried chicken with grilled cheese pillows finds a permanent home
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It’s not every day a popular food truck goes from wheels rolling to brick-and-mortar in six months. But for Johnny Zone and Amanda Chapman, the husband-and-wife duo behind Howlin’ Ray’s Hot Chicken truck, that’s exactly what happened. Even they’re a bit surprised.

Partnering with David Reiss’ REISS CO hospitality group—the company behind places like the Alibi Room, A-Frame, Salt Air, and The Brig—Howlin’ Ray’s stopped rolling on November 1, and will open for a temporary residency in the former Littlefork space in Hollywood beginning November 17. That means that addictive Nashville-style hot chicken—fried chicken covered in a deliciously fiery coating—along with unique side dishes, will be available on the regular, in one place, at least until spring 2016. Howlin’ Ray’s will then land in a very permanent spot on the Westside.

“Our initial six-month lease on the OG Howlin’ truck is up this month, so we’re going to retire it and take it to the next level,” says Zone. “We don’t want the truck to operate on its own without us. This is our baby, so we are treating it great care.”

The way Zone makes this fried chicken, you’d swear he was from Tennessee and not L.A.—and because he started serving it on a truck, you’d never guess he’s worked with chefs like Thomas Keller, Gordon Ramsay and Nobu Matsuhisa. The LA native was working around town (he was at La Poubelle and Bouchon) before staging at Husk in Nashville, where he was turned on to the regional delicacy. The lightbulb, sparked by hot sauce and vinegar, was lit, and he brought some ideas back to LA.

Lucky for him, if there are three things this town loves, it’s fried chicken, heat, and food from trucks. Zone kicked off Howlin’ Ray’s—named in homage both to his dad, 3-D comic hero Ray Zone, and blues king Howlin’ Wolf—with a pop-up at Barrel & Ashes. Soon after, the truck started rolling.

“Honestly, we had no idea what to expect when we opened the truck,” Zone says. “We thought, if L.A. doesn’t want this, we do it for 6 months, do it proud and give it everything we’ve got. Our hope was that L.A. would fall in love with it as much as we have and so far we’ve been extremely blessed with an amazing response.”

At his new digs in Hollywood, Zone be serving the fried chicken and chicken sandwiches, housemade pickles, mustardy potato salad, and braised collard greens. But there will be hot chicken and waffles every Saturday and Sunday alongside new options like wings, tenders, and buckets of chicken, plus sides like fried okra and mac and cheese. You know, the kinds of things that are easier to make with a real kitchen. There’s also a full bar program from beverage manager Brian Butler.

“We’ll also have a few secret menu options, like adding a grilled cheese pillow under your hot chicken instead of just a piece of bread,” Zone says. “And we will be offering weekly Southern-inspired specials, such as a family-style shrimp boil where we bring out the boil in a pot and pour it on the picnic table for all to share.”

Don’t fret at the idea of all of this ending in March or April. Zone, Chapman, and REISS CO are already working on opening that Westside location for the spring. When that happens, they’ll close Hollywood to renovate—it’s getting a minor touch-up for the residency—then they’ll reopen it as a flagship Howlin’ Ray’s.

“We’ve been given incredible opportunities by awesome people, even at this early stage,” Zone says. “We can’t wait to see where this next chapter takes #HOTCHICKENINLA!”

Howlin’ Ray’s Hot Chicken, 1600 Wilcox Ave.; 323-465-3675

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