Dino’s Chicken & Burgers
Any time people in basketball circles talk about the city of Memphis, Gus’s Fried Chicken is bound to come up. Everyone from players to beat writers to team staff wax rhapsodic about Gus’s chicken, entering a nostalgic reverie as if they were down-and-out barflies remembering the one who got away: thick, spicy, rich, moist. LA may not have a precise equivalent to that sort of down-home fried chicken fetishism, but perhaps the closest thing we have here is Dino’s Chicken & Burgers in Pico-Union.
Dino’s is in an often-overlooked neighborhood just west of downtown, but once you have their chicken those surrounding blocks will flip from afterthought to frontal lobe in the blink of an eye. Don’t be fooled by the pastrami, burgers, or burritos – though they are good, gigantic and greasy in the way of many great burger stands around town, the Chicken Combo is what you want. When it comes out, hot as hell and almost heavy enough to bust through the bottom of the large Styrofoam tray, you will be compelled to sit and eat, no matter the fact that you were going to get it to go, that you have a basketball game to get to.
The chicken comes out red-orange like a smoggy sunset with little landmines of char, both colored and flavored by the spicy, tangy, utterly unique marinade and repeated fiery lashings from the large grill. As you wolf down bite after bite of chicken your hands, your face, and your neck will get their own streaks of neon liquid, but more importantly, so will the French fries in the tray below. By the time you’ve worked through most of the bird the fries will have absorbed all of the spillover, turning into starchy little sponges sitting in a puddle of incredible sauce, wet enough to make a fork a necessity until your burning desire outstrips your dignity and you suddenly find yourself up to the elbows in seasoning. You will walk into Staples center looking like the lone survivor of a carrot juice hurricane, and you will wear it proudly – Dino’s sauce may be the most seductive perfume on the market. 2575 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006; dinoschickenandburgers.com