This week's Strip Mall Rat is a double-header. Well, sort of. See, there's this little cluster of strip malls on Slauson, just west of Crenshaw Blvd. in South Los Angeles. Two places to eat on one side of the street, and two more places to eat on the other. One -- with a Woody's Bar-B-Que and dinky fish fry place -- is a true strip mall. There's parking, everything's connected and there's even a little pet store attached to the far end. Makes you wonder where the fish fry place gets their fish.
And across the street is Hungry Harold's, a window walk-up spot serving burgers and hot dogs that just couldn't be ignored. And then, if you're going to cross Slauson anyway, you might as well get a doughnut from Slauson Donuts.
Whew. This strip mall stuff is exhausting.
Of all the spots on this list, Woody's is the one you've probably heard of. There are a few locations throughout the Southland, in places like Rialto and Inglewood, but the Slauson location has the distinction of coming first. How that affects your rib dinner is anyone's guess.
Speaking of which, the pork ribs are a popular option here. Technically, that's true of every single barbecue place in America, but when the locals elbow you with one arm while they point out the ribs on the menu with their other arm, it's worth noting. Still, the photo above is of Woody's "sliced beef," a name as generic as the white bread it comes with. In fact, the beefy slice pile is sold as a sandwich on the menu -- hence the two slices of bread -- but comes neither assembled nor with any other sandwich-like accoutrements. That's just how they do things at Woody's. Other options include beef links, smoky chicken, rib tips and an assortment of mayo-heavy sides. If you're feeling particularly light, weigh yourself down with a $15 dinner combo that includes ribs, sliced beef, a couple of links, plus beans and a side. Good luck.
Beware: There's no place to eat your food at Woody's. This is strictly a take-away joint, with a few chairs while you wait for your number to be called, and plenty of napkins to help you clean off your hands before getting behind the wheel again. If you want to skip the line, order ahead between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, or suffer the post-work crush of hungry commuters who don't feel like cooking at home. Woody's Bar-B-Que is open daily at 11 a.m., and lasts until 11 p.m. on school nights and 1 a.m. on the weekends. Sundays run from noon to 10 p.m., and they happily take credit cards.3445 W. Slauson Ave., South L.A.; (323) 294-9443.
Whoever owns this strip mall sure has a strong design sense, because the whole building is painted up in a white and maroon look, with matching fonts for every sign that runs above a storefront. That's why The Fish House can be hard to tell apart at first -- it blends in so well, and the straightforward name doesn't tell you if it's a restaurant or a pet store. Both of which, funnily enough, already exist in the same strip mall.
Walking into The Fish House won't put you much more at ease, either. All you'll find in side is a long cold case with a run of various fish, sliced and ready for some oily action. There are per pound prices if you're really feeling gluttonous (or want to take some home to cook yourself), but stick with the menu board over the fryers for more conventional you-buy-we-fry fare. There's lots of typical fish to choose from -- tilapia, whiting, cod, salmon -- as well as shrimp and lobster, if you're feeling strip mall fancy. Dinners run around $10 and include a small side of potato or macaroni salad, plus hot sauce, tartar sauce, hush puppies and a roll. You'll have to pay more if you want a squishy slice of 7UP soda bread.
If you can't wait to get home, you'll have to eat your fish in your lap at one of the three or so chairs tossed haphazardly around the rectangular room. Or you can stuff your face from the hood of your car, a nearby mailbox -- anywhere, really, where there's a flat surface and enough space for you to roll around happily on the ground afterwards. The Fish House accepts credit cards, and is open weeknights from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturdays form 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 8 p.m. And if that weren't confusing enough, they're closed on the fourth Sunday of every month, probably to air the place out. 3440 W. Slauson Ave., South L.A.; (323) 293-1300.
There's nothing fancy about Slauson Donuts, a fact which should be abundantly clear when you realize you have to order through a pane of glass. That's OK though; sometimes you just need a doughnut in the morning. Slauson Donuts is that type of place: perpetually open, crowded on Sunday mornings and otherwise empty as a whisper.
There's coffee, cake doughnuts, glazed doughnuts, none of which are particularly noteworthy but any of which could change your life if you're
hungover and in the right mood. Slauson Donuts is open 24 hours, and they only accept cash. 3451 W. Slauson Ave., South L.A.; (323) 292-6398.
What an awesome name for a takeaway-only grease trap. You see the sign above the dull red roof, done in a thin Arial font with a faded Coca-Cola logo underneath, and you know exactly what you're going to get. There are picnic tables by the ordering window if you're in the mood for sticking around, and off in the corner someone is probably selling something (DVDs, hats, you name it) so if you squint, you might successfully imagine yourself eating foie gras at an open air market in Paris. And then someone calls out your order for a chili dog and a churro.
Because, really, what else could Hungry Harold's serve but processed hot dogs and Mexican cinnamon treats? Sure, there are burgers and maybe a taco or two, but when you're at Harold's, you're Hungry, and the meal has got to include some chili. Lots of folks just come for the chili cheese fries, a goopy meal unto themselves, served in a damp brown box. Or the breakfast burrito, offered up with a couple strips of bacon and lots of potato. If you're feeling adventurous, swap your bacon out for pastrami, then call in "full" to work.
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Hungry Harold's is open from 7 a.m. to 7:45 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and they'll take your credit card but up your bill by $1 for the inconvenience. 3453 W. Slauson Ave., South L.A.; (323) 299-1817.
See also: 7 Great Churros in Los Angeles
Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Farley Elliott writes about food, drink and entertainment at OverOverUnder.com.