L.A.-Style Soul Food That You Can't Find in a Restaurant

Fried catfish and hushpuppies at Taste of Soul
Fried catfish and hushpuppies at Taste of Soul
Sarah Bennett

From the smothered chicken at R&R to the po' boys at Little Jewel, L.A. has top-notch options for down-home Southern food. But some of the best cajun, creole and soul food in Los Angeles can't be found in a restaurant.

At occasional pop-ups or private events, catering companies are serving the city's finest fried chicken, gumbo and mac and cheese. One such event was Saturday's 10th annual Taste of Soul, a free community festival that, according to organizers, brought 400,000 people to a four-block stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard in South L.A. More than 70 food vendors joined the festival this year; here are four that should be on your radar.

Rib plate from Gettcha Grubb On's pop-up
Rib plate from Gettcha Grubb On's pop-up
Sarah Bennett

Gettcha Grubb On
We first found Gettcha Grubb On this summer, when we were lured to the corner of Avalon and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards by the smell of meaty smoke coming from a barbecue barrel. The $10 plate of sweet and saucy ribs (served with your choice of fries, greens or porky beans) did not disappoint; neither did the seafood-loaded gumbo or peach cobbler we had from GGO's pop-up weeks later. In a neighborhood known for its abundance of nighttime taco stands, Gettcha Grubb On provides a rare alternative. When we last drove by the intersection a few weeks ago, Gettcha Grubb On wasn't there, so we were more than happy to dig into another plate of ribs and fried catfish from its booth at Taste of Soul.

Curry puff from Earl's Curry Pot
Curry puff from Earl's Curry Pot
Sarah Bennett

Earl's Curry Pot
The best $2 we spent at Taste of Soul was on a chicken curry puff pastry from Earl's Curry Pot. Flaky, filo-like dough encased a hearty mixture of spicy, curried chicken that reflects owners Earl and Frieda Farrier's Caribbean background. Though their catering business card says they make almost anything with their signature yellow curry (curry shrimp, curry king crab legs, curry grilled salmon), they've been known to serve even more interesting takes on West Indian cuisine, from spicy jerk chicken with marinated pineapple to vegetable curry quinoa potato skins to salmon croquettes with lemon-tarragon aioli and tropical salsa bruschetta. facebook.com/Earls-Curry-Pot; (323) 363-7153.

Herb-roasted chicken breast kale salad (aka "clean soul food")
Herb-roasted chicken breast kale salad (aka "clean soul food")
Facebook/Country Soul Food Kitchen

Country Soul Food Kitchen
Country Soul Food Kitchen paradoxically delivers vegan- and paleo-friendly weekly meals all over Greater L.A. Owner La Tanya Howard is versed in the old-school Southern classics but adopts a healthier philosophy — think kale salad and lemon-pepper salmon bowls. At Taste of Soul, CSFK split its menu into two parts: "Clean Eatin'" and "Dirty! Dirty!" On the "clean" side were fruit cups, protein bowls and other healthier items; the "dirty" side included such Howard inventions as Gumbolaya and Ghetto Sketti. CSFK is in the process of raising money to buy a catering truck. countrysoulfoodkitchen.com; (626) 393-1425.

The taco meat is hiding somewhere in there.
The taco meat is hiding somewhere in there.
Sarah Bennett

Taco Man Burrito Boy 
At Taco Man Burrito Boy, your taquero will look like Azealia Banks and your tacos will be of the gringo variety, but that's what makes them so good. The catering company — which recently launched with a glorious logo of a '90s-era humanoid taco on a skateboard — is another example of what's being called the "black taco," a new era of South L.A. food launched by a group of young, Internet-savvy chefs. One of the scene's originators, Taco Mell, was serving at Taste of Soul, but it was Taco Man Burrito Boy's juicy, chili-like ground-beef filling that dripped all over our shirt and into our hearts. Placed in a lightly fried shell and topped with shredded orange cheese, shreds of lettuce and tomatoes, the $3 tacos are everything you want when you don't want real carne asada. Red Rooster Louisiana Hot Sauce takes the place of salsa roja. twitter.com/tmbb_la


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