Flores + Sons serves fried chicken and other Southern fare with California flair
By Richard Foss
Even the least sentimental among us holds some place as deeply meaningful because of something that happened there. It might be the hall where you aced that piano recital, the café where you first kissed your spouse, or even a park bench where you had a conversation that changed your life. You may visit it nostalgically but will probably never have a chance to own it, to celebrate it to the world.
Amal Flores saw his chance and took it. In 1969, Amal’s father Gene exhibited metalwork here when it was the Greenson Gallery. The show was such a success that it ran for years, propelling his father’s fine art career. The space went through several owners and purposes before Amal got his hands on it in 2013. He decided that Flores + Sons would buck current trends by serving modern variations on Southern cuisine, at first with star chef Brian Dunsmoor.
I experienced the restaurant partially by chance. Friends and I were intending to dine elsewhere but seized the opportunity of an open parking space, and by the time they had stowed their purses in the trunk I’d scanned the menu at Flores + Sons and convinced them to follow me inside.
The patio would have been alluring earlier or later in the day, but the afternoon sun convinced us to choose a quiet table in the back of the restaurant. (Quiet is a relative term on Sawtelle, of course, but Flores + Sons is a lot more chilled out than most other restaurants in the area.) The room has odd architecture with an open bar space facing cozy nooks and a row of tables — modern but comfortable.
Dining early allowed us to order some of the restaurant’s signature dishes at a substantial discount. In addition to an Asian chicken salad from the regular menu, we chose a happy hour “spring chopped salad,” cheese fries, Brussels sprouts and fried chicken.
If you squint a bit, that can be mistaken for a well-balanced meal. At least that’s what we told ourselves as we attended to the other important business of ordering drinks: hard cider from Honest Abe Ciderworks and a glass of white wine, with a hefe to follow, all reasonably priced at five bucks for a decent pour.
The first plate to arrive was the spring chopped salad, which contained kale, radicchio, asparagus, peas, carrots, corn and a slightly salty queso fresco with a lemon vinaigrette. That sounds like someone tossed in just about everything in the vegetable bin, but it was actually a nicely calibrated set of flavors. The sweetness of the corn and fresh peas balanced the kale and radicchio nicely, with the light coating of vinaigrette tying everything together. I don’t know how much longer they’ll be serving this spring item, but if you want a fine shared starter or meatless light meal this is a good choice.
The Asian chicken salad followed the standard pattern of grilled chicken, greens and almonds with sesame dressing, with bits of ginger and mango contributing extra flavor. It was just what it was supposed to be, tangy with enough flavors to keep you eating, and the portion size was quite enough for a full meal.
The cheese fries were also as we expected, except for the part about being waffle-cut potatoes rather than the expected skinny fries. Since waffle cut fries stay crisper, we were perfectly happy with this.
The fried chicken was what brought me into Flores + Sons in the first place, because it’s one of my favorite dishes and one that is too much fuss and mess for me to make at home often. The version served here has an herbed batter with a little peppery heat, a refreshing change from places that play the “how hot can you eat it?” game. That batter was crisp and greaseless, while the chicken inside was very moist — exactly what I’d hoped for when I ordered it. The mostly deboned half bird comes with biscuits and coleslaw on the regular menu for $16, or $9 without sides at happy hour. Either way, this a deal for a Southern favorite faithfully executed.
I had been leaning toward a different side but ordered the Brussels sprouts at the suggestion of our server Jenny, who said they were her favorite. I had been skeptical that sprouts sautéed with maple and a bacon-onion-cranberry jam would be too sweet, but I was pleasantly surprised. The sprouts had been caramelized with the jam and dash of syrup added late in the game, creating a nice balance of smoky, tart and sweet to accent the natural vegetable flavors. It was another reminder that you should ask a server’s advice and strongly consider it, because the good ones know their business.
A varied and interesting dinner for three ran just over $80 with two ciders, a wine and a beer, which is pretty remarkable. Flores has a broad and interesting menu, and I’ll be back to see what else comes out of this kitchen that has Southern roots and a California attitude. There’s a lot of heart and soul in this gallery turned eatery.
Flores + Sons 2024 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A. (424) 273-6469 floreslosangeles.com