Crawford's Dive Bar Lands in Westlake With Hot Chicken and Cheap Beer

The hand-painted signage at Crawford's lets you know just what to expect.
The hand-painted signage at Crawford's lets you know just what to expect.
Scott Reitz

When new owners take over a beloved dive bar, it’s common to assure the regulars that nothing significant will change. The promise is always empty. Walls are torn down, just to open the space a touch. Soon a curated run of beer taps appears, along with cocktails that involve spanked basil and smoldering rosemary. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment when an old haunt loses its soul, but it’s probably about the same time that the corn chips clipped to the wall near the register disappear. Chef-driven bar snacks, anyone?

And then there’s Crawford’s in Westlake, which opened earlier this month. Backed by Dustin Lancaster (Covell, the Hermosillo, L&E Oyster Bar) and Michael Blackman (the Hermosillo), owners Dave Abrams and Matt Dittman could have played to the trend when they took over a lease at Linda’s Place on Beverly Boulevard. The door that used to open by buzzer has been replaced — it’s often left open to let a little of the outside in. Walls were torn out to expose brick, and light fixtures were hung with quaint basket shades. A giant wood canoe was mounted over the bar, and the bathrooms got a much-needed overhaul.

A pool table at Crawford's
A pool table at Crawford's
Scott Reitz

But while Crawford’s is definitely a new establishment, the space defies expectations as a trendy new bar to retain its appeal as an honest dive. Sure, the booths are dressed in pristine, crimson pleather, but they sit beneath faux stained glass windows that show their age. One pane appears to have a gaping bullet hole. The Formica bar top is still original, down to every nick and peeling corner, and the bathrooms still smell vaguely of decades of spent beer.

The bagged snacks hanging behind the bar may be gone, but there are Ruffles on the menu. The team snagged chef Brian Garrigues, who previously cooked at Little Easy Downtown, and tasked him with a simple menu of fried chicken and sides. His onion dip is half onions, cooked down until they’re sweet enough to balance out the tart sour cream. The dip is as thick as peanut butter, and it’s the perfect foil for a plastic basket of salty, greasy potato chips. 

Hot chicken basks in the glow or red neon. You're home.
Hot chicken basks in the glow or red neon. You're home.

Garrigues grew up in Gulfport, Mississippi, and says he’s been dousing birds in hot oil since he was 16. At Crawford’s, he keeps things simple, using a buttermilk brine and lightly seasoned flour. The bird is fried at a low temperature so it cooks slowly while the skin crisps. The dark meat nearly falls from the bone, encased in a delicate but crunchy crust. Ask for the hot chicken to have yours doused in chili oil before it’s tossed in a serving basket. Order the white meat if you have to, but it’s dry in comparison. And don’t miss the beans, which are cooked with rendered bacon and tangy-sweet Coca-Cola barbecue sauce.

“There aren’t too many places in L.A. where you can get fried chicken and a $3 glass of beer,” Abrams says, when asked what inspired the new bar. He and his friends follow the University of Oklahoma to football games all over the country — an annual trip that turned into research as they hunted down dive bars in each new town. Crawford’s doesn’t have the appeal of a well-worn dive bar just yet, but those frosted mugs of cheap Bud will go a long way to convince any doubters. A new cast of regulars from the neighborhood already has made a second home of the place. It’s only a matter of time before those tufted booths are as worn and comfortable as the seats that inspired them.

Crawford's, 2616 Beverly Blvd., Westlake; (213) 568-3133, instagram.com/crawfordsbarla.

The tufted pleather booths are new, but they should wear in nicely.
The tufted pleather booths are new, but they should wear in nicely.
Scott Reitz

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