Welcome to Dining On A Dime, a feature in which Lucas Kwan Peterson surveys LA's cheap eats—often obscure, ethnic, unsung restaurants—proving that dining on a dime is alive and, well, quite tasty in this here city. Where do you want us to go next? Do share.
Up until last year, Steve Harvey presided over an annual ceremony called the "Hoodie Awards" — an awards show whose goal was to give recognition to exceptional businesses and organizations in the African American community. Honors were conferred in such categories as Best Nail Salon, Best Church Choir, and Best Fried Chicken. Today, the Hoodie Awards are still going strong, but have received a corporate makeover — they're now officially known by the much more tame "Ford Neighborhood Awards."
Ford presumably found the term "Hoodie" unpalatable, maybe understandably so, but another result of their sponsorship was the elimination of the Best Fried Chicken category (the rightness or wrongness of the excising this category is worthy of a much longer discussion than this column is currently fit to hold).
CW & Chris Fish and Chicken, located in the heart of South LA, won the Best Fried Chicken category three times since 2001. The proprietors are a father/son team who opened up shop in 1992. Chris, the son, can usually be found on-site: overseeing the food preparation, greeting customers, or even wiping down tables. His business card states very simply: "Chris Player, Owner." His father, CW, is getting on in years and makes less frequent appearances at the restaurant. Another discussion that's too involved for this particular column: if "Chris Player" is, just maybe, one of the coolest names in existence.
The food at CW & Chris more than makes up for the charmless interior — and the interior is fairly charmless. There's almost no decor, save for some sad silk carnations dotting the Formica tables, and patrons are greeted by a wall of bulletproof glass where orders are placed — transactions more closely resemble those in a gas station or bank than a restaurant (there have been security issues in the neighborhood, so this is understandable).
But getting back to the food: the fried chicken is top-notch and certainly 3x-Hoodie-award-worthy. The coating is flavorful and sparky — you can see the little black dots of pepper covering the chicken — and the pieces are blessedly absent of the crusty, flour-happy mess one so often encounters at fast food chicken joints. Drumettes (the upper part of a chicken wing with a meaty bit at the end, so named because it resembles a small drumstick) and wings, the most popular items, are juicy on the inside yet miraculously greaseless — almost dry — on the outside. Everything is prepared to order, so be ready for a 5-10 minute wait, even when the restaurant is empty. The CW & Chris special, a breast, wing, leg & thigh with two side orders for $7.59, has to be one of the most spectacular lunch deals in the city.
The fried fish is equally good — catfish and whiting are light and flaky, well-paired with a solid but unassuming tartar sauce. The sides are exceptional and some manage to almost outshine the chicken and fish. Greens are smoky and tender, flecked with shreds of pork throughout and utterly lacking in bitterness. The potato salad is some of the best I've eaten, refreshingly creamy without overdoing it. It's a smooth version, lacking big potato chunks, and strikes the perfect balance of mustard, mayo, and pickle. The only miss is the macaroni salad, which is a bit too drippy and sweet. Desserts, including peach cobbler (from scratch) and red velvet cake (not from scratch), are also served. — Lucas Kwan Peterson
Bonus Tip: Get extra buffalo and tartar sauce. Mix the two together. Enjoy.
Extra Bonus Tip: Tilapia is not shown the menu, but they do have it. And it's good.
CW & Chris Fish and Chicken is located at 6512 S. Western Ave. The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 11 a.m to 10 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
· All Dining on a Dime in South LA Coverage [~ELA~]