Sandwiched between two furniture stores and down the street from a Winchell’s doughnut shop, the bright red Le Coupé restaurant stands out on a bustling stretch of East Hollywood. Before the restaurant’s owners transformed the space into a casual fried chicken joint — bringing a bit of Louisiana to LA, along with some French culinary techniques — it was formerly a furniture store, too.
“We’re trying to create that LA-to-LA connection, from the fact that I grew up in Louisiana and have roots there, but now live on the West Coast,” says chef-owner Craig Walker.
They’re not the only ones. Last month, iconic New Orleans fried chicken restaurant Willie Mae’s landed in West LA at the Colony shared kitchen space for takeout and delivery. The brand is opening a brick-and-mortar location in Venice later this year. And not to mention Harold & Belle’s, the legendary Jefferson Park restaurant that’s been going strong since 1969.
For Le Coupé being such a small restaurant — about 1,100 square feet — Walker and his wife Kristen have managed to pack in a lot of flavor with high-quality ingredients, both sourced locally and from the South. For example, Le Coupé’s blue cornbread is made with Anson Mills’ cornmeal from South Carolina; it is ground to order especially for the chef. The cornbread is served alongside butter made with Steen’s cane syrup, a Louisiana staple. The honey that coats the fried chicken comes from local beekeeper JJJ Bees.
The star of the show is Le Coupé’s bone-in thigh. The chicken is Frenched then pounded (to create more surface area and to decrease cooking time) and marinated for 24 hours in a mixture of buttermilk and Slap Ya Mama’s hot sauce, which a close friend of Craig’s developed in Louisiana. It’s then dredged in seasoned flour, fried to order, and tossed in a chile-laced honey. The final product is served with house-made puffed chicken skins, something akin to chicharron, and a buttermilk ranch with fresh herbs (a sauce that the chef jokingly calls Exposed Mountain because it’s very different from Hidden Valley’s famous dressing).
Craig, whose background is in fine dining, found that his fried chicken was the most popular item anywhere he went. (He previously owned Somethin’ Else Cafe and Charcoal’s Gourmet Burger Bar in New Orleans, and was the executive chef of Aspen’s 7908 Supper Club, where he first met his wife.) At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, both he and Kristen, who is an event planner, found a way to stay busy when their work dried up.
“We started making the best of the situation,” says Kristen. “Every night, I would set the table, get flowers, and open some nice wine. And Craig would cook two to three course meals, and we would have them out on our patio.”
Neighbors in their Newport Beach neighborhood started taking notice and asked if the couple could make them meals for purchase. The Walkers put out a daily-changing menu on top of a flower pot in front of their house. Fried Chicken Fridays became their biggest seller, and it convinced the couple it was a sign that they should take it to the next level.
After spending a few months in a ghost kitchen, they found the East Hollywood space thanks to a tip from the Ggiata Delicatessen team down the street. (The two restaurants previously operated in the same ghost kitchen space.) It took a year and a half to build out Le Coupé. Now, it has what Kristen calls a “rustic farmhouse” look that’s reminiscent of Louisiana, with an exposed brick wall and a mural with drawings of chickens, corn, and chile peppers. Mostly a takeout and delivery spot, the restaurant has four tables and eight seats for dining in.
While the bone-in thigh and chicken sandwich are the main draws, Le Coupé’s sides are not to be missed. The chef’s elote-inspired corn ribs are vertically sectioned cobs that are fried, tossed in lime-mayo and chile seasoning, and then topped with queso fresco. As the name suggests, the kernels are meant to be nibbled from the core like rib meat off a bone. There’s also a compressed watermelon salad with Australian goat feta, and a wedge salad with lardons that Craig makes from a slab of Neuske’s bacon.
“There’s a lot of cross-lineage from Louisiana [and LA] products,” says Craig. “It goes back to me going to school at Le Cordon Bleu and all the travels I’ve had. It’s a mixture of all of my teachings in this chicken that we’re presenting here.”
Le Coupé is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.