Where To Eat Soul Food In LA Right Now
THIS STORY IS PART OF HOW TO L.A., OUR ONGOING SERIES OF PRACTICAL GUIDES FOR DAY-TO-DAY LIVING IN LOS ANGELES.
What exactly is "soul food"? It has become a blanket term to describe African-American cuisine although its origins pre-date slavery. It's culled from European, indigenous and African influences but many of its key ingredients are rooted in the inhumane rations provided to African slaves by their masters. From the undesirable parts of pigs came neckbones, chitterlings and other mainstays, while meager amounts of cornbread were used to bread and fry catfish and other meats.
These cooking techniques stretched thin rations to their max and supplied slaves with the calories they needed to survive their brutal working conditions. Over time, the traditions evolved into the foundation of Southern cuisine as slaves who were adept in the kitchen became chefs for their oppressors.
As such, soul food is much more than a cuisine. It's a Southern-fried story of terror, triumph and taste. It captures the adversity of the oppressed and the undying will of the African-American spirit. Here's where you can get your fix.
Sista Mary's Soul Food
As if the distinction of being one of the only soul food restaurants in the San Fernando Valley isn't enough, Sista Mary's Soul Food also has one of its most eclectic menus. From their "fryfecta," a medley of sweet potato, shoestring and garlic parmesan fries paired with ranch dressing, to their short rib patty melt to their fried chicken breaded with the breakfast cereal Apple Jax, this restaurant is an amusement park for your taste buds. The abundance of fried favorites like okra, chicken, pickles and Oreos, is matched by the outpouring of flavors. For those who enjoy a side of entertainment with their candied yams, Sista Mary's hosts its fair share of watch parties and comedy shows.
420 W. Colorado Blvd., Glendale. 818-396-5399.
Long removed from its humble beginnings as a Compton-based food delivery enterprise, Trap Kitchen has become the catering service of choice for everyone from Jay-Z to Martha Stewart. That's due to chefs Spanky and News, who are known for injecting street flare into their dishes. If a waffle baptized in apple bacon gravy, anointed with cajun fried pork ribs and sprinkled with pepper bacon sounds like the spiritual awakening you've been waiting for, consider your arteries clogged and your prayers answered. You can catch these guys at private events or slanging their dishes on their social media channels. Keep an eye out for their recently announced food truck.
323-879-5898 or 503-442-0748.
That Sauce. No, literally. Anyone who's tried Comfort LA's signature offering, That Sauce, knows why people often to shed tears of joy upon experiencing it for the first time. Comfort LA's claim to fame is its unconventional take on soul food. Expect organic ingredients and healthier cooking methods that sacrifice guilt not taste. If chicken wings are your ministry, prepare to be amazed. You can order as many as 30 at a time or have them buried in mango slaw and served on a black brioche bun. Comfort LA is more than a restaurant, it's an experience. They have an assortment of board and card games and they frequently host community events and popular day parties like Soulful Sundays. But did I mention That Sauce?
1110 E. 7th St., downtown L.A. 213-537-0844.
My Two Cents
Renown for its ambiance, celebrity sightings and ambitious fare, My Two Cents features oxtail tacos, fried grits and the greatest catfish in the history of ever. As a testament to just how beloved this eatery is, when financial strife had My Two Cents on the brink of extinction in 2017, mogul in the making Issa Rae, songstress Solange and rapper Earl Sweatshirt swooped in and threw a massively successful fundraiser to keep the parmesan grits coming. Eager eaters should also make note of the plantain stuffed pork chops and sweet potato pecan crumble. Come for the food, stay for the spectacular service.
5583 W. Pico Blvd., Mid-City. 323-879-9881.
Dulan's Soul Food Kitchen
Dulan's Soul Food Kitchen boasts multiple locations throughout the city but they all have one thing in common: extremely generous, buffet-style portions. Owner Adolf Dulan reigned supreme for nearly 40 years until his passing in 2017. His legacy lives on in the heaping plates of baked fish, savory smothered pork chops and captivating collard greens. Prepare your fridge, and your stomach, for leftovers that go on for days.
202 E. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood. 310-671-3345.
1714 W. Century Blvd., Inglewood. 323-418-8527.
4859 Crenshaw Blvd., Hyde Park. 323-296-3034.
Harold & Belle's
Harold & Belle's tries to replicate the magic of New Orleans in the heart of Jefferson Park. While Creole dishes like shrimp and crawfish étouffée or their signature cheesy pork and jalapeno bayou balls will capture your attention, Southern staples like fried chicken and liver and onions also have a home here. After a lengthy remodel in 2016, the bar been has been expanded so events like their annual crawfish boil (a delicious excuse to throw a massive block party) have far more elbow room.
2920 W. Jefferson Blvd., Jefferson Park. 323-735-9023.
Soul Restaurant & Bar
New to the scene, Soul Restaurant & Bar, which opened in 2017, was a labor of love more than a decade in the making. Credit chef Giulian Jones for the repertoire of gulf shrimp and grits, boneless pork chops, braised collard greens and Kentucky Burgoo, a spicy stew of braised oxtail, smokey brisket, lima beans and mirepoix vegetables with a balsamic gastrique. Don't sleep on their brunch menu. That's where you'll find a spicy chicken benedict kissed with buffalo hollandaise or, for those in the mood for a classic, biscuits and gravy. Their calendar of events looks uneventful but rumor has it you might be in for some live music if you come on the right night.
7046 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. 323-962-7685.
Matthew's Homestyle Cooking
Matthew's Homestyle Cooking may be the best-kept secret in Los Angeles soul food. Although it looks nondescript from the outside, the scents luring you inside are anything but. From the fried chicken, with its crisp skin and tender flesh, to the sweet and tangy yams, this restaurant knows how to do the standards. If chitterlings are your thing, they have those too. Make sure you don't leave without ordering a refreshing mango kiwi muddy water, a concoction of lemonade and sweet tea infused with tropical flavors.
2222 Rosecrans Ave., Gardena. 310-817-5496.
Ms. B's M & M Soul Food
For Los Angeles soul food aficionados, the name Beverly Brinson is synonymous with courageous feasts followed by involuntary food comas. As the Mississippi-bred owner of the iconic Inglewood staple Ms. B's M & M Soul Food, this family affair has been churning out Southern comfort for more than 25 years. You'll find favorites like smothered pork chops, oxtail short ribs and fried catfish, as well as more adventurous offerings like chitterlings or oyster loaf, which transforms briny oysters into a succulent sandwich. The rustic flair -- family photos, odes to its Mississippi heritage, autographed pictures -- makes this dining experience unique. Plus, where else will you find a soul food spot with a drive-through? Also of note, menu items rotate from day to day, based on the apparent whims of the chef. While entrees like turkey chops or liver and onions are available daily, if you're on the prowl for BBQ ribs they're only available on the weekends.
801 E. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood. 310-412-2800.
Similar to Dulan's, Granny's Kitchen is another cafeteria-style excursion for your hunger pangs. For those on a budget, it's a great place to wine and dine on a dime. With the exception of oxtails or chitterlings, almost everything on the menu is around $10. If you're on a mission for neckbones, this is the only restaurant on the list that offers them, and with their juicy meat laid in a bed of rice and buried in savory brown gravy, they won't disappoint. The fried chicken here is a must and their assortment of Kool-Aid flavors are the perfect way to wash everything down. As a heads up, parking here isn't the greatest so Lyft might be your best option.
5440 S. Central Ave., Central Alameda. 323-231-2141.