Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Don’t Waffle on Roscoe’s – Support Black-owned LA Institution in Wake of PnB Rock Shooting

PNB meal at Roscoe's
PNB meal at Roscoe’s – posted to social media by his girlfriend Stephanie Sibounheuang

*(Via LA Times) – The restaurant was nearly empty. A day after the horrifying shooting death there of rapper PnB Rock, the Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘N Waffles on the 100 block of West Manchester Avenue at South Main Street was open but had few takers.

Except for me, and one other person.

On Tuesday, television news vans crowded the parking lot outside the restaurant, which anchors a strip mall with a liquor store. A small shrine of candles and flowers was forming against a fence near the entrance. A tall, bald-headed man acting as a host or security guard opened the glass door as I approached and asked, “Pick up or dine in?”

I pressed past camera operators and said, “I’d like to dine in.”

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Roscoe's Chicken 'n Waffles - YouTube
Roscoe’s Chicken ‘n Waffles – YouTube

The host guided me to Table 12, and a server approached. It was 1:45 p.m., almost exactly 24 hours since Rock, whose real name was Rakim Allen, had been killed in what police described as a robbery attempt for his jewelry.

The death of an inspiring music figure from Philadelphia sparked an outcry about a string of violent incidents involving hip-hop artists in the Los Angeles area, including the 2019 shooting death of local icon Nipsey Hussle. Allen’s shooter remained at large.

I’ve eaten at Roscoe’s many times, but never at this location and not under such somber circumstances. I came here because, often, in the face of tragedy or loss, our instinct in Los Angeles can compel us to gather around food that we find comforting.

Herb Hudson (far right) and Roscoe's gets award from Black Business Association on LA
Herb Hudson (far right) and Roscoe’s gets award from Black Business Association on LA

Some soul-food experts may tell you that there are better chicken and waffles to be had at other restaurants or locally grown chains. Yet Roscoe’s, over the years, has become synonymous with L.A. soul food. It is particularly beloved for its chicken-and-waffle combos, which draw boisterous eaters from breakfast time to late into the night at any of the chain’s eight locations, ranging from Long Beach to Pasadena, as well as frequent celebrity sightings in Hollywood or Mid-City.

The chain was founded in 1975 in Hollywood by Herb Hudson, a native of Harlem in New York City. In an early mention in The Times, from 1984, readers were told of the outpost on North Gower Street: “Even if you’ve never heard of Roscoe’s, some big names have; manager Jean Shaw counts among her customers Stevie Wonder, Sugar Ray Leonard, Eddie Murphy and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.”

In 1996, the late restaurant critic Jonathan Gold called the Hollywood Roscoe’s the “Carnegie Deli of L.A.’s R&B scene, a place where everybody goes, mostly because everybody goes there.” He had tepid things to say about the food, but even 25 years ago, Gold seemed to recognize that Roscoe’s had become something of an institution, a canvas for the city’s dining culture.

PnB Rock - Getty
PnB Rock – Getty

This week, after the initial shock of hearing that a hip-hop artist had been shot inside a restaurant in L.A., my mind turned to the cooks and servers who may have witnessed the violence and who would likely be hoping they wouldn’t lose precious work hours in its aftermath.

“I just wish it didn’t happen here,” said John Carter, the shift lead on the floor Tuesday. “It’s not going to stop, because it’s L.A. Things happen here. It’s just too much.”

Get the rest of this Daniel Hernandez opinion piece/article at LA




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