The Crenshaw Strip has a history that has never been told, but it lives on in memory. Over on Orkut's Angry Black Man community (the most jumpin' off set in the whole joint) the subject turned to Chicken.
That's funny because the other night at the Comedy and Magic Club, where they were joking about naked pyramids, a black comic tossed out a line that I never heard before. 'More nervous than a black family's pet chicken'. Cracked me up, because we had a pet chicken. He didn't last. On the other hand, the girl across the street had one and treated it like a kid sister. But I digress.
Yeah man, I used to always go to Pioneer Chicken just off of Crenshaw next to Boy's Market. You used to be able to buy had a bucket of fried gizzards. Man that was the bomb! Gizzards and Orange Whip! Pioneer Pete and that whole western theme. Best batter in the western hemisphere, worst service on the planet. A bittersweet experience every time.
Now if you want to go back, you cannot overlook Chicken Delight on Adams between Normandie and Vermont (on the south side). Nor can you forget Jim Dandy Chicken. Jim Dandy used to right at Crenshaw and Jefferson. That's where you could get a half pint of fried clams. Wooo! And of course no story about Los Angeles and Chicken would be complete without Golden Bird, the proprietors who have always been.. well, significant figures in the seditty community.
That's just the chicken. I can still remember the first time I ever went to Fatburger. Yeah, the original one on Western just north of Jefferson. That nasty little shack had the best burger. It was after church at St. John's, and my would-be girl and her mom (who is now practically a bishop in the Episcopal Church) used to stop by there all the time. They had to take me home one time and so I had my first Fatburger when sometime in 1978. It changed my life because since then I've always looked for dumpy fastfood joints to deliver way beyond what they appear capable of delivering.
It was in that spirit that I did find Oki Dog. I'm talking about the Oki Dog on Santa Monica Blvd. That trashy, nasty joint with all the junior hoodlums and runaway kids and boozy bums with post-traumatic whatever that's called. The Oki Dog is actually two hot dogs smothered in chili and cheese topped with pastrami wrapped in a flour tortilla instead of a hot dog bun. It is by far the epitome of junk food and has yet to be topped in any universe.
Back to my 'hood. Now if you can remember this joint, you're showing your age. But who could forget the Nubian Queen. The NQ was by far the nicest restaurant ever to hit the black community (back when we were all just one black community). Right on Crenshaw half a block south of Adams, the Nubian Queen had all the ambience of that Michael Jackson video 'Do You Remember the Time'. It was that slick. The service was good, polite and the food was good. They went broke within a year, but for one shining moment...
Right next door, and probably still there is Leo's BBQ. I cannot remember a time when Leo's didn't exist. It was probably there when the Windmill was still on Adams and Crenshaw and the owner of the chinese laundry still wore a queue. That's some LA history for yo' ass! Of course Johnnies Pastrami Stand is still there. Johnnies was scene of so many interesting and dangerous nights in my imagination. Whenever pops went to get a sandwich or two, I was always afraid to leave the car. It was populated with 'the element'; the real pimps. You see, West Adams, for all its churches on the hill, and more that a few motels further west, and strangely beautiful women with no place to go. I always used to ask my father why anybody would want to have their vacation in this neighborhood. It was a long time before I understood why he used to crack up at that question.
El Rey was the coolest taco stand around. Over on Santa Barbara and Arlington (or was it Western?), you could get them to make you a suicide - orange soda mixed with root beer. I never was much into the tacos, but I always got thirsty driving by. I also used to drool at the waitress drawn on the side of a little bar called the House of Dimes on Jefferson just west of Western around the corner from Fatburger. How many black boys would stare at that miniskirt on the green wall? There must have been thousands with that same memory.
One of these days, I'll probably visit all of the old black bars and dives that I never bothered to in my 20s when I finally got over my fears. I wonder if their stories will ever be told. Here's to hope.