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Dining review: Larkin's in Eagle Rock has a southern soul

April 21, 2012|By Rebecca Bryant
  • Larkin's Fried Chicken Salad includes dark meat chicken, mixed greens with balsamic vinegar and a side of buttermilk dressing, at the Eagle Rock restaurant.
Larkin's Fried Chicken Salad includes dark meat… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

Tucked on a corner in Eagle Rock, across a side street from a pink diner with its own towering billboard, the brown bungalow doesn't look like much. Its roof is beginning to tatter, there's nearly no parking, and the few tables outside are made from old doors painted and put on their sides in one last stop before the scrap yard. (Actually a nice, colorful touch.)

Larkin's, which bills itself as “a contemporary soul food joint,” is like visiting Grandma's house, with its scuffed wood floors and cozy rooms and big windows, and its smells of cornbread and frying chicken. (OK, my Southern grandma's house was small and made of concrete block, but the smells were the same.) But the menu is way more inventive than Granny's pan-fried chicken and potatoes.

A fried okra and heirloom tomato salad mixes baby greens, warmed slabs of red tomatoes and rounds of fried okra with balsamic vinaigrette. The breading on the okra was crisp, nicely done — so much so that I ordered the fried okra as a side on a subsequent visit. The Jambalaya was full of rich, tomatoey flavor, its spice pouring over perfectly cooked rice. At home, we fought over the leftovers.

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The fried chicken — two drumsticks and a small thigh — was inconsistent. On our first try, it needed a little more coating and a little less time in the pan. The second time, the two drumsticks and one thigh were crispier and more flavorful. They wouldn't fare well in a matchup with Roscoe's in Altadena, but I'd put the sweet little disk of cornbread that came with the chicken against anybody's.

The catfish on the po-boy sandwich tasted fresh, moist, perfectly breaded and fried. This was a nice revelation because the first time we tried the Larkin's catfish, it came as curled, flavorless nuggets, from the freezer. The fixings on the po-boy wouldn't be scoffed at in Louisiana's bayous. Thin slices of barbecued brisket came slathered in a sweet yet tangy sauce.

Mashed potatoes were bacon-y, with just enough chunks to feel authentic, and a dollop of white gravy, a nice surprise. Macaroni and cheese came in a to-go tin, creamy, covered with grated cheddar and with bits of bacon mixed in. Pure comfort-food heaven.

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