Dear Mr. Gold,
About 30 years ago I used to eat at Bill’s Chicken on Lake and Washington in Pasadena. Bill served nothing but chicken (and butter-soggy corn on the cob), thrown into a brown paper bag with a couple slices of white bread. The chicken was juicy, tender, fabulous; the batter thick and crunchy, fried in peanut oil. I’m dying for more but despair at ever finding anything so perfect in northeast L.A. Is there hope?
—Erika G, Eagle Rock
Dear Ms. G:
The northeast might be the best area to find fried chicken in all of metropolitan L.A. Bill’s Chicken, for example, is still there, around the corner from its original location (minus Bill, I fear), but still serving takeout chicken and white bread in paper bags, and still crowded most nights. There’s a branch of Roscoe’s Chicken n’ Waffles just down the street on Lake; a Popeye’s (which I think is formidable, especially the livery dirty rice, even if it is drive-thru); and a place called Big Mama’s, whose chicken is renowned — and better than the highly touted ribs — right up the street on Lake. In Eagle Rock, the sit-down restaurant Larkin’s has some of my favorite fried chicken in the city — wonderful stuff, with delicious little corn muffins. And if you’re adventurous (and have time on your hands), you might want to check out the chicken at Hawkins House of Burgers, up near the top of Fair Oaks in Altadena, a Watts transplant perhaps better known for its hulking two-pound hamburgers. Hawkins is the furthest thing from fast food — it can take more than 45 minutes for the cooks to fry a simple order of wings, including the time they take to singe off every stray pinfeather — but the chicken is pretty amazing, very nearly worth the wait. Hawkins House of Burgers, 2664 Fair Oaks Ave., Altadena, (626) 791-2876.