UPDATE 8/2/2015: In the 2+ weeks since this article posted, the prices of some items at The Spot On Pico have risen, and the value of the $15 'Supper Box' has decreased noticeably. Please refer to their website for current prices.
If there's another business in town quite like The Spot On Pico, please let me know. The tiny storefront, which feels something like a permanent pop-up, sells Southern-style chicken, links, sandwiches and sides on Fridays through Sundays only, 9 p.m. until 3 a.m. I asked the owners why they don't open for, say, the dinner hour. They told me very amicably that they all have other jobs and interests, and besides, they don't really feel like it. Sounds reasonable enough.
I passed under a piece of corrugated tin awning and through the metal screen security door around 2 o'clock early one Sunday morning. The surrounding neighborhood feels strange and slightly desolate at that hour — walking in is not nearly as ominous as a George Romero movie, but the dearth of people is pronounced enough that there's a slight hello-is-anybody-out-there sensibility. Smack in the middle of a triangle created by Venice Blvd., San Vicente, and Fairfax, The Spot On Pico is neither here nor there: not quite Mid-City; not exactly Little Ethiopia; too far east to be Pico-Robertson. There are no other businesses within eyeshot that are open at that hour. It's mostly auto body shops and the odd upholstery place. The restaurant is self-described: it is a spot, and it is on Pico.
And thank goodness it's there. The food is blessedly solid: fried chicken, waffles, hot links, macaroni and cheese, sweet corn, and wine cabbage are all cooked up by a group of "family and friends" led by Reno Logan, who acts as a something of a head chef and spokesperson for the operation. "Oh, make sure you put 'Melonee McKinney' in there," he told me, referring to a fellow cook and co-owner of the business. "I don't like to take no shine. Give her all the credit."
The interior is the size of a small doctor's waiting room, and the walls are covered in Americana kitsch: a straw hat here, a washboard there; a wooden cartoon squirrel; a chalkboard; an oversized, unusable wrench. Given the Cracker Barrel-like, almost flippant lightheartedness of that décor, it's surprising to see the oversized mural on the far wall of the iconic Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, where four African American college students began a protest in 1960 that eventually led to the lunch counter's desegregation.
"We wanted to create a place where all kinds of people could sit down next to each other and share a meal," Logan said. "We thought that was important, given everything that's going on today," he continued, referring to the past year's unrest in St. Louis and Baltimore. There is a remarkably egalitarian feel about the restaurant —from the fact that the group of family and friends all run the operation like a small commune ("Everyone cooks," said Logan) to the fact that all the menu items run in the $2-$5 range.
Menu items can be ordered à la carte or in the form of a "Supper Box" for $15, which contains a choice of meat, four different sides, waffle sticks, a hash brown, and a large drink. I had some chicken wings and a drumstick; they were tender and covered in an eggy, garlicky batter. Waffle sticks ($2.50) are served blisteringly hot in a small square of tin foil. They're essentially your standard 4x4 waffle matrix split up into individual sticks, each waffle stick with the dimensions of one indentation wide by four long. They're thick, sweet, and, paired with the fried chicken, make a legitimate contender to be a Roscoe's killer.
Some of the sides are excellent; some are merely good. The macaroni and cheese ($2, like the majority of the sides) is deep and rich, with an alluring pimiento taste. The cherry cobbler is wonderful, with a good balance of tart cherries and chunks of buttery, crumbly topping. The wine cabbage is light and tangy, but a little heavy on the black pepper. French fries are hot and salty but on the soggy side for those who like their fries crisp. One item I was not able to try, but was told I must return for, is McKinney's grilled cheese sandwich, described by Logan as "the best you'll ever taste."
When I left, Logan and another man followed me outside, and began loading some items into his car. "You know the El Chato truck?" he asked, referring to the taco mainstay on Olympic and La Brea. "When those guys [that work the truck] wanna eat, they order from us. We're bringing them some boxes right now."
The Spot On Pico is located at 5661 W Pico Blvd in Los Angeles. Their hours are 9 p.m. until 3 a.m., Friday through Sunday.