448 Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Price range: $$$
By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer
Photos by RICH SCHMITT | Staff Photographer
It’s been 23 years since Nas broke big with his classic debut album “Illmatic,” and the Brooklyn rapper has never appeared busier or more ubiquitous, including now entering the restaurant game.
Created by New York restaurateur John Seymour, Sweet Chick originated in 2013 with a Brooklyn location. By 2014, a second Sweet Chick popped up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Big moves went down in 2016. Peter Bittenbender, CEO of Nas’ label Mass Appeal, fell hard for Sweet Chick. He roped in Nas, and the pair boarded as partners in Seymour’s already-successful venture last year.
Cut to April 20, 2017, and Sweet Chick Los Angeles arrived on a trendy stretch of Fairfax Avenue.
However, unlike blockmates Animal and Canter’s Deli, Sweet Chick grooves to a different beat, specializing in gourmet soul food. While the cuisine may read like basic staples, its execution is much more complex.
One powerhouse starter is Mac and Cheese—pasta shells bathed in Gruyere, aged white cheddar and fontina, kissed with a dusting of Ritz cracker crumbs—an exquisitely tasty take on an old favorite.
Even more ambitious: the stand-out appetizer Pork Belly Nuggets, which arrives lightly charred in a blueberry balsamic glaze on a bed of kimchi, nicely counterbalanced by bits of pickled watermelon. This plate is a must.
Anyone frequenting LA’s current culinary scene knows there’s nothing unusual about Grilled Octopus, but here it tops a small heap of Charleston gold rice with an extra-spicy kick to it (Gochujang BBQ sauce—you’ve been warned!) and the Korean accents—a running subtext throughout this restaurant’s narrative—are much appreciated.
Entrée-wise, Fried Chicken and Waffles rules this roost. We partook in the most basic plate, which is about as perfect as said meal comes: crispy, golden-fried bird with light, fluffy waffles.
For $18 a plate, specialty chicken and waffles dishes include The General (with General Tso’s sauce, rice flour and broccoli waffles), Buffalo Fried Chicken (blue cheese, and celery and carrot waffle) and Fried Chicken Parmesan.
As an alternative to chicken, we sampled the delicious Shrimp and Grits, a generous array of boiled Wild Gulf shrimp over a heaping bowl of Anson Mills grits with pepper sauce. Another non-chicken option: Duck and Shortrib Meatloaf, an extravaganza of pomme puree, oyster mushroom, English spring peas and mushroom pan jus.
We also had to experience the Donut Ice Cream Sandwich, a light, just-right dessert to cap off a filling meal. (They keep this sweet sandwich interesting by switching out seasonal ingredients—ours featured a blueberry donut and vanilla ice cream.)
Signature cocktails here sport such stream-of-consciousness monikers as Tiger Tiger Woods, Y’All, Levitate, Levitate, Levitate, and the awesomely grape-tastic Purple Drank Icee, a gin-and-juice, alcoholic Slurpee, utilizing Welch’s as its base.
Originally from just outside Sydney, Australia, bartender Anthony Sferra moved from New York’s Sweet Chick to Los Angeles to design the program at the Fairfax District eatery. Several of the drinks are unique to the LA location.
However, the cocktail menu has undergone change-ups this summer, with the popular, sweetly pink staples Sweet Chick (vodka, triple-sec, watermelon, lemon juice) and God Out West (tequila, mezcal, lime, raspberry, celery bitters) staying, joined by the inventive Chickalada, a housemade Bloody Mary popsicle dunked in Pabst’s Blue Ribbon with a couple of green olives and lemon twist with a red chili-and-lime-salt rim.
With his new partners on board, Seymour intends to keep expanding his enterprise, with Philadelphia and Atlanta among the cities to soon hoist Sweet Chick flags.
“It’s more than a restaurant. It’s a brand, a lifestyle,” Seymour said.