Dear Mr. Gold:
I know you’ve written about the best gumbo in Los Angeles. But every time I drive down Crenshaw Boulevard looking for the restaurant, I come up short. This isn’t a sad thing particularly — I do usually end up getting ribs at Phillip’s, but I’m beginning to wonder if this gumbo isn’t a figment of your imagination.
Jim, El Segundo
Stevie’s on the Strip, the cheerful South L.A. institution famous for its gumbo and smoky fried chicken, did indeed go away. The corner of Jefferson and Crenshaw will never be the same, especially for those of us who used to love the Stevie’s commercial on the old KDAY, back in the days when Los Angeles hip-hop still ruled the world.
But the gumbo and the fried chicken do still exist in their original, if considerably pricier, form at Stevie’s Creole Café in Encino, where Steven Perry moved his operation lock, stock and smoker. A meal at Stevie’s feels very much like a meal in a loudspeaker-filled nightclub, which it basically is — jazz and blues play most nights — and the entrée pricing, mostly in the mid-20s, is up there with the most expensive restaurants in the Valley. Ella posters and old concert fliers encrust the walls. But the menu includes all manner of fried seafood, crawfish preparations and various étouffées. The grits with andouille sausage is epic. And the gumbo, thickened with filé, stacked high with crab legs, vibrant with pepper, is just as good as it used to be when Stevie served it in little Styrofoam cups. For gumbo like that, one is prepared to endure all kinds of discomfort. 16911 Ventura Blvd., Encino, (818) 528-3500.