Mouthful of Howlin’ Rays

For those who have heard, and still, many who haven’t, Howlin’ Ray’s has been taking over the Los Angeles fried chicken scene since 2015 filling stomachs with fiery Nashville Hot Chicken. The screaming hot sauce has been calling out to hungry souls all over southern California and the daunting lines display it proudly — with estimated wait times averaging around two to four hours. Luckily, there is another way to get your hands on Howlin’ Ray’s without spending excessive amounts of time standing in line so that you may use more of your time enjoying that classic Tennessee kick.

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The Preparation

You can create a pre-order two months in advance with a minimum of ten entrées.

Yes, you read that correctly. After all those years of procrastinating, your parents were right after all — planning ahead in life could actually save you time and stress in your future. So, rally up your friends and family (or be prepared to eat ten orders of chicken and various sides with no judgment at all from me) and send in that order so that you won’t have to put your yearning on hold for any longer!

Be aware, though, that even though the pre-order method, you have to be QUICK! Howlin’ Ray’s is a hot item both figuratively and literally, and there is still plenty of demand for it. This means that once dates are within the two month reservation window and are released, you will need to be up and ready at midnight to book your chicken meal. These time slots fill up faster than you can say “Howlin’ Ray’s Nashville Hot Chicken”!

After you complete your order, it will be confirmed via e-mail, which is followed by passive waiting and you continuing to pursue your life through the trials and tribulations of finding the next place to challenge your taste buds. You go about your merry way until the daily humdrum abruptly from suspended about a week before your arrangement: the final invoice. Be aware you must fork up the full bill at least 24-hours in advance. That is the price you pay for cutting out your wait in line — ten entrées worth for anyone who remembers.

But do not fret! Those delectable menu items are worth enjoying whether you decide to take the active or passive waiting approach. You can choose from items such as just the chicken, the sandwich, wings, hot chicken, and waffles, along with sides such as fries, collard greens, potato salad, and vinegar slaw.

Their spice levels are as follows:

Country (No Heat)
Mild (Brush of Heat)
Medium (Feel the Burn)
Hot (Burn, Baby, Burn)
X-Hot (You’ve Been Warned!)
Howlin! (Can’t touch this. 10++)

On the Howlin’ Ray’s website, there is no option for their secret menu spice level Howlin’ Plus. So for those who enjoy flirting with death and would like to try their hand at this spice level from hell, let the staff know you’d like the Howlin’ Plus when they confirm your order via e-mail the day after you order it!

The Experience

My appointment for my chicken day was this past Saturday. Needless to say, my two month-long wait had culminated to this extremely exciting moment! I walked past sullen, starving patrons — in my heart of hearts, I, too, share your ravenous spirit, my brethren.  But the difference between you and I is that my patience has led me on a different path — directly to the front of the line. I spoke to an employee and mentioned I had made a pre-order. He was eager to ensure that sure my chicken was fresh out of the fryer and a healthy sized helping. “If I’m not happy, you’re not going to be happy,” the Howlin’ crew member stated about his opinion on the presentation of my meal. Meet my Hot Chicken spirit guide, Mario, who was doing everything in his power to make my experience at Howlin’ Ray’s one to write home about — ahem.

While I was waiting for the final touches on my meal, Mario resurfaced from the kitchen with a box of his secret menu “Mario fries” complete with french fries, slaw, cheese, chicken breast, pickles, and Howlin’ Ray’s sauce. It was a thoughtful and tantalizing teaser for the meal to come!

Like a mother holding her child immediately after birth, you know I had to snap quick pictures of my fare in its place of origin! My friends and I ordered each spice level starting from Hot and working our way to Howlin’ Plus. We asked for white meat (breast and wing), an order of the half bird, and the Sando (chicken breast sandwich).

The Kick

The spice levels are NO JOKE! And this is coming from a group of individuals who can handle their heat quite well. The Hot was already burning a hole in my mouth but the Howlin’ Plus? It tore us all up! My friends were in agonizing pain the entire time and throughout the remainder of the day. Made with Carolina Reapers, it is the kind of heat that, for those who are not aware, is subtle at first encounter, then in a few minutes, will PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE. HARD. As your face and body go numb, you won’t feel the tears trickle down your face, but you will recognize the agonizing waves of regret ripple through your thoughts. And yes, hallucinating is a possible side effect because it is far too spicy to be a part of the reality we live in.

I was warned that the X-Hot would be 1-day recovery, Howlin’ would require 2 days, and the Howlin’ Plus would necessitate a 3-day recovery and endless prayers for forgiveness.

As Smash Mouth put it, “Now I’m a believer.”

The spice levels were exactly as labeled. Be prepared for the pain or at least refrain from complaints if you decide to order something labeled “X-Hot” and its spice level comes to kick you in the gonads. If you can’t handle it, respect it for the precedent of truth it set forth and maybe order the country or the mild next time.

The Review

Was it good?

Yes. The chicken was genuinely moist, juicy, and hot… the way chicken SHOULD always be served! 

Would I wait 2-4 hours for it?

I don’t wait in line for food, so no. 

The way I went about attaining my Howlin’ Ray’s was perfect for an impatient individual such as myself. The thing I would change is definitely checking my ego in at the door and stepping down the spice level. My overall experience with Howlin’ Ray’s was exceptional from start to finish. Howlin’ Ray’s is far deserving all of the success and attention that they are getting.

If you are ever in Los Angeles, more specifically in the Chinatown area, swing by and give Howlin’ Ray’s a try! That’s if you have hours to spare.

HAPPY EATING!

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