Remember 2016, when Nashville-style hot chicken was still fairly hard to find in Los Angeles? Locals sampled the regional dish by way of an occasional pop-up by Hotville Chicken’s Kim Prince, and by visiting the Howlin’ Ray’s truck, which launched in 2015.
Fast-forward to 2022. Google “hot chicken in Los Angeles” and take inventory of the number of red dots splattered throughout the map. Hot chicken careers were made, while local chains plotted and continue down the path of rapid expansion. But it was Howlin’ Ray’s, which opened its Chinatown brick-and-mortar in 2016, that kept everyone’s attention and loyalty, even earning the blessing of the Prince family in Nashville (the originators of the dish). Long lines and a cult-like following have been hallmarks of the original Chinatown shop. And, as of today, Howlin’ Ray’s unveils a massive new space on Arroyo Parkway in Pasadena.
Howlin’ Ray’s Pasadena has the potential to reshape this south side of Arroyo Parkway. Though blocks of homes are slightly east of the mostly industrial street, Burt Bakman’s Slab will be Howlin’ Ray’s neighbor and will share the same parking lot. Shake Shack and local breakfast burrito favorite Lucky Boy’s are just up the street, as well.
Business partners and spouses Amanda Chapman and Johnny Ray Zone have been working on the new restaurant since early 2021. The biggest shift at the new space is the introduction of in-house dining. Howlin’ Pasadena has a lot of what Howlin’ Chinatown doesn’t: ample seating, beer and wine, a massive kitchen, industrial waffle irons, free parking, restrooms, and a sidewalk that can handle overflow far better than the original six-year-old brick-and-mortar.
The parking lot will make visiting a breeze. Upon entry, diners are greeted with a fridge with Miller High Life bottles in brown paper bags and a cashier who can easily pour the rosé and white wines offered on tap. Same goes for the Beachwood Brewing’s Hef Leppard, Chronic’s Amber Ale, Blind Pig, and Little Bo Pils beers. Chapman collaborated with Preen Inc. design and touches can be seen throughout the store, including the beautiful bathroom tiles and 3D printing.
The menu remains the same, but staff will have more kitchen space to quickly produce Howlin’ Ray’s beloved hot chicken sandwiches; tenders; and quarter, half, and whole birds. Ray Zone anticipates in the coming months that they’ll offer weekend waffles, with plans for his director of operations and South LA local Julian Sanchez to produce rotating specials such as tomahawk steaks, succotash, seared scallops, shrimp and grits, and Sanchez’s family recipe for banana pudding. Check the restaurant’s Instagram to see what’s coming. Ray Zone says, “We want to do this one step at a time.”
Howlin’ Ray’s Pasadena is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday for dine-in and takeout only. Howlin’ Ray’s Chinatown operates daily from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. for Postmates pick-up and delivery.