In just a few short years, Chinatown hot spot Howlin’ Ray’s has grown from a dream to a food truck to one of the busiest restaurants in Los Angeles, serving thousands of weekly fans who queue up in lines that can run anywhere from 45 minutes to five hours. The restaurant works because it speaks a simple language: Nashville-style hot chicken and Southern hospitality with a hip-hop edge.
Howlin’ Ray’s fans are some of the city’s most fanatical diners, rivaling even In-N-Out in their cult-like devotion. Line-holders often sport Howlin’ Ray’s gear and tattoos, trading photos of previous selfie sessions with the boisterous crew that works inside the restaurant. Homage videos and spice-level challenges populate YouTube. And, just like In-N-Out, Howlin’ Ray’s has an entire secret menu for in-the-know fans to enjoy.
From add-on spice levels to secret sandwiches and all sorts of rethought sides, here are all of the off-menu items that Howlin’ Ray’s will make for customers who ask.
Even first-timers know that all of Howlin’s chicken is available in a rainbow of heat notches from country (no heat) to Howlin’, the hottest level on-the-menu spice level available. But there truly are levels to this, with mid-tier options like “mild plus” for those who can’t stand the full hot but still want a good burn. True hotheads can also order “Howlin’ plus” or “Howlin’ plus plus,” two excessively fiery concoctions that come with gloves and a stern warning.
The classic Howlin’ Ray’s sandwich is a dish of ubiquity. It shows up, eventually, on everyone’s Instagram feed, complete with overhanging slaw and lots of sauce. But there are other sandwiches to know about on the Howlin’ Ray’s menu.
Luis-style sando ($14)
This is the Howlin’ Ray’s take on a patty melt, where instead of a bun the spicy chicken is draped with cheddar cheese and then tucked between two thick slices of buttered and griddled Texas-ish toast.
JoJo-style sando ($14)
Mostly a weekend brunch special, the JoJo is a stripped-down waffle sandwich, wherein a skinny Jimmy (boneless chicken breast) gets melted cheddar cheese and two airy waffles as buns. Add in powdered sugar and maple syrup for maximum effect.
The normal Howlin’ Ray’s menu only lists shake fries as a possible addition to any chicken order, but there is an entire universe of loaded fries possible for those who ask.
Mario-style fries ($12)
Mario fries are perhaps the most well-known off-menu item available at the restaurant. Here, loaded shake fries are covered in the shop’s signature comeback sauce as well as cheddar cheese, vinegar slaw, and pickles. The best part? Big cut-up chunks of hot chicken (available at any spice level) are mixed right in. This is the animal-style fry order for Howlin’ Ray’s.
Matt-style fries ($7)
Another popular option is the Matt-style fries, a hearty mix that’s topped with collard greens, cut up bacon, comeback sauce, and braised tomatoes. The whole thing is then hit with plenty of melted cheddar cheese, with a coup de grace of potlikker sauce (the braising juice from the greens) served on the side for pouring on top. It’s almost like poutine.
Juicy-style fries ($6)
These smaller-sized loaded fries first get a light dash of extra-hot seasoning to give them added kick, then they’re laced with classic Crystals hot sauce. From there it’s a wash of Trappy’s pepper vinegar, slaw, and comeback sauce, all mixed in for maximum blended heat.
Finally, there are the fried pickles ($5). Here the usual crinkle-cut pickles are dredged and fried just like a piece of chicken, and served hot with a side of comeback sauce.
One final note: It’s worth noting that in the past some customers have even Frankenstein’d their own personal food creations from the usual Howlin’ menu and put them online, and chef/owner Johnny Ray Zone has even been known to cobble together items like a grilled cheese called The Brick, but they’re not a part of the regular off-menu universe. Translation: Ordering off-menu can be a hassle for the crew, so don’t go in assuming that every dish ever shown on Twitter or Instagram will be available when requested.
And finally, the crew themselves: Mario, Julian, Luis, and Matt.
Howlin’ Ray’s. 727 N Broadway #128, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Source: “Los Angeles” – Google News