How to Eat in South Central
Where to eat in South Central, Los Angeles.
Photo via Flickr
BABE'S & RICKY'S INN You might ask: Who are Babe and Ricky and how did they read my mind, knowing that I'd be dying for a soul-food buffet after midnight? Well, sweet little Laura Mae Gross took over a jazz club in the 60s and renamed it after her son and nephew. This isn't the original location, but all the equipment and fixtures are here. Monday nights are a jazz-and-blues open-mic night, and the $8 cover charge will get you the free buffet, with insane collard greens, cornbread, and fried catfish. Don't ask about the free food because it doesn't get served until around 11 PM. Just show up early to make sure you can get in and, if you're lucky, Mickey Champion, who used to sing with Billie Holiday, will perform. Also, Mama Laura don't take no credit so bring your cash. 4339 Leimert Blvd., Crenshaw, 323-295-9112.
BUSY BEE MARKET San Pedro has been described as LA's asshole, with the ugliest population to boot (it was home to the Minutemen, not exactly the foxiest bunch of guys), but if you ever find yourself in this cesspool try checking out "the best sandwich in town" at the Busy Bee Market. A deceptively crappy-looking liquor store, in the back it houses a simple, small-town deli with massive BBQ and Italian-sausage sammitches—basically a meal for two on bread. 2413 S. Walker Ave., San Pedro, 310-832-8660.
CREOLE CHEF The Creole Chef is a good place to go if the Gumbo Pot piqued your interest in Creole food. It's super-small and you order at the counter, but they are nice folks and it makes you happy to give them your money. In return, they give you everything with the fried platter: oysters, shrimp, and catfish, with sides of red beans and rice or gumbo. And they even have hush puppies, a Southern delicacy of fried cornbread. 3715 Santa Rosalia Dr., in the Crenshaw Mall, View Park, 323-294-2433.
HAROLD & BELLE'S Anyone feeling some fried and a side of fried with fried butter on top? Harold & Belle's is Southern-fried-food heaven. Our stomachs hug us (and then slap us later) whenever we eat here. The meal starts with hot buttered bread, which might as well be fried, and then there's (fried) crayfish, catfish, shrimp, oysters, crab, and chicken, as well as the gravy-like étouffée (not fried so use this as a cleansing course, much like the way fancy places give you sorbet) and gumbo that's almost as good as our Cajun memaw's. 2920 W. Jefferson Blvd., Jefferson Park, 323-735-9023.
HAWKINS HOUSE OF BURGERS Yes, this is in Watts, you pussy. Massive, massive burgers guaranteed to shorten your life span by at least five years. Eating at Hawkins is more dangerous than actually getting there. (Psst, there's one in Altadena too.) This is the kind of burger that drips all the way down to your elbows, so you won't look like an asshole tucking your napkin into your shirt. Get the Hawkins special: two beef patties, with cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, fried eggs, hot links, pastrami, pickles, an old boot, a stick of butter, and a jar of mayo. 11603 Slater St., Watts, 323-563-1129.
PHILLIPS BAR-B-QUE Brisket, ribs, chicken, links, white bread, sweet-potato pie… bee-bee-kew orgasm. Phillips is takeaway only; you order your food and wait for it outside. If you're sheltered and afraid of the hood, don't even bother to come. More BBQ for us. 4307 Leimert Blvd., Leimert Park, 323-292-7613; 1517 Centinela Ave., Inglewood, 310-412-7135.