The best new fried chicken spot is in a Northridge food hall

Fried Chicken and Hainanese Chicken from Maxwell Chicken Rice

I eat a lot of fried chicken. The first season of my show “The Bucket List” was about fried chicken – all nine episodes of it – in which I highlighted the excellent fried chicken around Los Angeles (and even Tokyo!). I recently embarked on a 10-stop fried chicken. I eat these at least a couple of times a week.

My current obsession is the fried chicken from Maxwell Chicken Rice, a recently opened Northridge Eats stall in the San Fernando Valley. The compact food hall features exclusive Asian vendors with a Thai restaurant, a Japanese sushi spot and a ramen stall off Maxwell. The north wall is covered with a giant photograph of a hawker center in Singapore.

The specialty at Maxwell Chicken Rice is Hainanese chicken rice, in addition, the restaurant also serves fried chicken as a side dish or on a plate. Co-owner Shaun Oshita was inspired by the chicken rice dish at Flock and Fowl in Las Vegas, where he worked before opening Maxwell, and by the version at Savoy, the San Gabriel Valley headquarters.

Chicken is served with a piece of rice, a bowl of broth, pickled vegetables and three sauces: sambal, soy sauce, and ginger onion seasoning. The skin of delicious Hainanese chicken is a cross between rubber and meat jelly. The rice has a rich flavor with chicken broth and rich chicken oil created by frying the layers of excess fat after the chicken is cleaned and cut into pieces. The accompanying rice, chicken, and broth all have ginger, garlic, and shallots. It’s simple but very majestic.

Maxwell Chicken Rice's Hainanese Chicken Rice in Northridge.

Maxwell Chicken Rice’s Hainanese Chicken Rice in Northridge.

(Zach Heffner

Fried chicken until cooked. I finished shoveling my plate of chicken rice before the fried chicken was safe to handle.

I scraped my fork over the golden crust like I’ve seen countless TikTokers do in the video, giving an audible confirmation that the skin is incredibly sharp. The rice flour grater gives the chicken a thin and crispy skin. It also makes it gluten-free.

This is what I like to call drip chicken. The juice, pressed under the skin, oozes from the flesh. It’s not overly complicated or flavorful in any particular way. It’s just delicious fried chicken.

Office burgers from Father's Office.

Office burgers from Father’s Office.

(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Burger Office at Father’s Office

Sang Yoon’s Cheeseburgers are still one of the best burgers in the city. I was reminded of this when I recently stopped by the Santa Monica location (which also has Father’s Offices in Culver City and downtown LA). It’s still 21 and over, still dark, noisy and no ketchup allowed.

And still no replacement. One time, the woman on the bar stool next to me said she had a severe milk allergy. The bartender frowned, shrugged, and politely told her she could take out the cheese.

The magic of the Office burger is that it’s the opposite of the backyard burgers that are saturating our city. I love the choked American cheese, ketchup and pickles served, smashed to forget the meat as much as the next person, but sometimes I want a non-chain-inspired burger fast food or burgers that a family member burned at a birthday party. I want toppings that I don’t have in the fridge yet and a bread that doesn’t come with a political backlash.

For starters, cheese sandwiches have a reputation for being made with aged deep-fried dough. Pieces of fatty rolls, coarsely ground, pink in the middle and oozing juices. The top of the meat is both Gruyere and Maytag green, which melt together to form a pungent drop of milk. On top of that, a concoction of caramelized onion rings and sun-dried bacon coats the available crevices, injecting a hint of smoky sweetness into every bite. And on top of that, the arugula is fresh enough to make a salad. In fact, if you remove all the toppings, they make a respectable salad.

The burger is made from a soft French roll spread with garlic butter. It soaks up meat juices and keeps calm.

“It’s still the #1 bestseller everywhere,” Yoon said on a recent call. “I’m 22 years old this year.”

This burger has been on the best list for decades now. This is simply your reminder to treat yourself to a person when you need to.

Falafel wrap from Kareem’s

A wrap of falafel from Kareem's in Anaheim.

A wrap of falafel from Kareem’s in Anaheim.

(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

If I’m anywhere near Anaheim, I’ll stop at Kareem’s Falafel to get it wrapped in falafel. Located in the neighborhood known as Little Arabia, this was the first Middle Eastern restaurant in the area. And while Kareem’s currently serves everything from “fat flatbread” to fries with feta cheese, my order will always include a falafel wrap.

That’s the kind of bread I’m in a hurry. That’s how the falafel warms the wrap from the inside, melts the tahini, wilts the lettuce, and softens the chopped tomatoes. It’s diced pickles and thin, chewy pita bread that never gets soggy.

The deep-fried spring rolls are jagged, dark brown spheres with moss-green middle patches. They were in bad shape, portioned and full of ground chickpeas, parsley, cilantro, garlic and onions. The patties are more herbaceous than most and they will stay crispy until the end of lunch.

The recipes are from Palestinian immigrants Nesrine Omari and her late husband Mike Hawari, who opened the restaurant in 1996. Now, their children Kareem and Nora run the show.

They sell frozen falafel in a small fridge by the door and at markets in Orange County, if you need a home fix. They also serve a falafel burger, which has a hockey falafel version. Next time, I will get the wrap and hamburgers. The best new fried chicken spot is in a Northridge food hall

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