Dave’s is part of LA’s hot chicken crowd. Although the lines are not as infamous as those at Howlin’ Rays (where the dinner crowd queues at noon) the hour-long waits are still a source of frustration and gossip. By a stroke of luck, I ended up around the block from Daves during some down time (mid-day on a Monday), with barely a line in sight.
And so my lunch at Dave’s came to be….
First thing I notice: they got some awesomely weird decor. The mural of lips and sleek white shades on the back and side walls lend an east side “hipster” look, while the rubber chicken painting screams “we ain’t taking any of this seriously!” I don’t know the rubber chicken’s name but he/she/they have to be one of the most endearing (and on a certain level, deep-that chicken’s face reminds me of a certain Paul Klee portrait) restaurant icons I have encountered in this country.
But what is a chicken mascot without some…., mouthwatering chicken?!?
Served hot off the fryer, Dave’s chicken “tenders” (as they’re diminuitively named) have an amazing taste and texture. The crisp and oily breading, which is coated in a peppery spice mix (watch your hands!), gives way to juicy, tender chicken meat. The spice mix’s robust flavor permeates to the center of the chicken
On an episode from Dave Chang’s Netflix show Ugly Delicious, one of the featured chefs remarked “every culture figured out that if you dredge the bird in flour and deep fry it that it was probably going to be good.”
Well Dave (no pun intended:)), you’ve got the perfect example here.
The crinkle-cut fries (serving more generous than the photo suggests), which are seasoned with a simplified version of the chicken spice mix, are also wonderful. Just remember to apply the side orange sauce to the fries rather than to the chicken (the sauce masks the chicken’s flavor).
And I know you’re going to ask about the white bread and pickle slices. How does that work? Well…
Rip off a chunk of the white bread, wrap it around a piece of chicken (pressing down so the spice mix seeps into the bread), top with a pickle and bite in! Repeat!
As an urban planner, conscious of the role restaurants play in neighborhood character and affordability, a word must be said about gentrification. Dave’s is located in a gentrifying-area of East Hollywood. Its foodie credentials and trendy vibe would seem to make it a weapon of the hipster invasion. However, at least when I visited, the diners were predominantly black and Latino, with very few stereotypical yuppies/hipsters.
Maybe I was visiting at the “wrong” time (The hipsters come for dinner?)?
Or maybe it’s the pricing. The combo plate prices offer a pretty good value for a restaurant of Dave’s caliber: $10.99 for the two large tenders and fries (my order) and $11.99 to replace the bare tenders with “slider” sandwiches. Dave’s reasonable price point may inadvertently make it more inclusive than its foodster kin.
Of course, a new fast-food joint in a low-income community might help perpetuate health inequities. Over the past four decades, misguided government policies have over-saturated low-income communities with fast foods, with grave public health implications. Even though Dave’s dishes probably use fresher ingredients than your typical McDonalds, they probably have as many, if not more, calories.
Readers. Have any of you been to Dave’s? What’s your favorite dish on the menu? What do you think of its role in the community?