L.A. Southern Fried Chicken…an Oxymoron, I’ll be the judge of that.

Fried Chicken:

We have been on a search for fried chicken in Los Angeles for what seems like ages. But it is beyond difficult to find the immaculate Southern fried version of yore or even other possible versions. One of the best places around that is now defunct (Paio in Silverlake) served up my favorite upscale version, which incorporated both the fried with the smoked to create the most utterly delectable BBQ fried chicken around. Los Angeles does try to shy away from deep fried foods (although the denizens of LA do like fatty foods or else there would not be a phalanx patiently waiting for guacamole sour cream chili nacho cheese dogs at all hours of the day at Pink’s). It is not exactly detailed in the firmament of the city’s health nut scriptures.

One can get their fried chicken fix at the minimalistic, mini-mall situated Flossie’s along an active stretch of Redondo Beach Blvd in Torrance, just a few blocks away from the ubiquitous ramen and shabu shabu joints popping up all over the place. In case you get misty eyed about watching airplanes flying over head, LAX is merely a hop, skip, and a jump away. So finally you’re at the beginning of the steam table counter at Flossie’s, after staring at the signage touting their use of 100% cholesterol-free vegetable oil for hours and marveling at the Mason jars holding pickled, preserved vegetables scattered around the shelves. Meat and threes are the name of the game just as it would be Deep South cities such as Biloxi or Bay St. Louis. The fried chicken will do a southern grandmother proud as will the syrupy though expertly spiced candied yams, tart collard greens, and smooth mac n cheese to round out your plate dinner. Dinners here can ultimately feed a family of three and arrive with a choice of a buttermilk biscuit or cornbread, a dessert such as banana pudding or blackberry cobbler, and a glass of official-tasting sweet tea or Kool-Aid to wash it all down. Be careful or else someone will have to roll you out of the place.

If your fried chicken fix has still not left you satisfied, then perhaps a visit and plenty of spare time is warranted to the Lilliputian pan-fried chicken joint, Maurice’s Snack n’ Chat – Fried Chicken to Go. It’s easy to miss since it remains a mere spec on the vast boulevard. Maurice Prince, the proprietor/chef, had once owned a ultimately more upscale, almost haute Southern sit-down restaurant a few blocks west along Pico Blvd where celebrities and movie starts would be coddled to no end and served heavy, homemade foods such as smothered short ribs, pork chops, fried chicken, and occasionally (on advance) Southern soufflé known as spoonbread. Stretch limos would idle double-parked outside while the starts inside would slum it munching on crispy, juicy fried chicken on a stretch of a Pico more known for body shops and liquor stores than for haute food. Eventually, all good things come to an end. Ms. Prince lost her lease or may have had other financial problems, but after a few years on hiatus she resurfaced to the new takeout shop (just a block or so west of the infamous Oki Dog) where only fried chicken and Southern sides are served up in a space barely containing a couple makeshift tables and some of the relics and tchotchkes of her old place. On a recent visit, the octogenarian Maurice greeted me with a Texas howdy. She told me that no one seems to make the kind of fried chicken she makes anymore. Let’s hope she’s right. Everything here is served a la carte and made-to-order. Even though it looks like a fast food shack from the outside, the food here is more aligned with the slow food movement popular with epicureans these days.

Maurice mentioned in passing that it would take a little more than a while. So what you do here is you wait, and you wait, and you wait a little more. As she went back in the kitchen to start up the cast iron skillet for the pan-frying, my eyes started to wander. A bunch of autographed headshots of actors and politicos from Henry Winkler to the late Johnnie Cochran to Diane Feinstein line one wall. You half expect a vintage Magic Hour Lakers jersey to be hanging from one wall like a precious tapestry. A couple faded reviews of her old place on Pico near Sierra Bonita were displayed, along with one praising here aforementioned spoonbread. There were close to a dozen certificates from the LA Chamber of Commerce to a National Geographic Centennial to even a cool swimming certificate from an aquatic center. In another corner, an old, burnished armoire with trinkets spread across it stood in veneration.

When the chicken arrives (after the better part of an hour), you bite it into some of the most beautiful, mahogany colored, shatteringly crispy skinned, incredibly well-spiced fried chicken around town. The candied yams that will arrive are freshly cut, cooked, and blissfully not too sweet though the greens are just ok along with the cornbread stuffing. If you happen to have saved some room, the warm coconut cake is not to be missed. Small mom-and-pop cafes like this are what makes Los Angeles such a great place to eat. You usually can’t get character and great food at the same place. Most of the corporate, chain restaurants spreading across the county sacrifice one over the other and sadly usually both.

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