Let’s not demonize Roscoe after the rapper’s murder

The restaurant was almost empty.

One day after horrific shooting death there of rapper PnB Rock, Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles in the 100 block of West Manchester Avenue at South Main Street was open but had few takers.

Except me and one other person.

On Tuesday, TV news vans packed the parking lot outside the restaurant, which anchors a strip mall with a liquor store. A small altar of candles and flowers was forming against a fence near the entrance. A tall, balding man who was acting as a host or security guard opened the glass door as I approached and asked, “Pick up or dinner?”

I pressed the camera operators and said, “I’d like to have dinner.”

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 an attempted robbery of his jewelry.

The death of a philadelphia inspirational musical figure sparked a clamor for a chain of violent incidents involving hip-hop artists in the Los Angeles area, including the 2019 shooting death of the local icon nipsey hustle. Allen’s shooter remained at large.

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

Conversations on social media since Monday's shooting included claims that Roscoe's location was not secure.

Conversations on social media since Monday’s shooting include claims that Roscoe’s location on West Manchester Avenue and South Main Street, shown Tuesday, is not safe.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Some soul food experts may tell you that there is better chicken and waffles at other restaurants or local chains. However, Roscoe’s has, over the years, become synonymous with Los Angeles soul food. It’s particularly beloved for its chicken and waffle combos, which draw boisterous diners from breakfast time until late at night at any of the chain’s eight locations, ranging from Long Beach to Pasadena, as well as frequent sightings of celebrities in Hollywood or Mid. -City.

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

In 1996, the late restaurant critic Jonathan Gold called Hollywood Roscoe’s the “Carnegie Deli of the Los Angeles R&B scene, a place where everyone goes, especially since everyone goes there.” He had lukewarm 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 food culture.

“At odd hours of the night, Roscoe hops around with hip-hop gangstas and old-time crooners, funkateers and new-jack swing exponents, athletes and bodyguards,” Gold wrote. “The pleasant smell of heated artificial maple syrup heralds the restaurant’s presence more than a block away at times.”

This week, after the initial shock of hearing that a hip-hop artist had been shot inside a restaurant in Los Angeles, my mind turned to the cooks and servers who may have witnessed the violence and were likely waiting. don’t waste valuable working hours on its aftermath.

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

I scanned the menu and went for a waffle with chicken fillets, and added iced tea with lemonade. The employees watching from the kitchen as I waited for my order seemed bemused and relieved that someone was there.

Since Monday’s daytime shooting, social media users have criticized Roscoe’s location, with some arguing that Allen, as a non-local, should have “known better” than eating at a restaurant in a community they harshly refer to. as “dangerous”. and “ghetto”, located not far from several public housing projects.

Many responses to news reports about the shooting suggested that Allen’s death might have been prevented if he had dined at a “safe” Roscoe’s, such as a place on Manchester Avenue in Inglewood that is frequented by people heading to or from the Inglewood International Airport. The Angels.

A small shrine was forming in the parking lot outside.

A shrine was forming Tuesday in the parking lot outside Roscoe’s where rapper PnB Rock was shot and killed.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Roscoe’s did not respond to requests for comment on the online reactions. On Instagram, the network’s official account posted a photo of Allen with an expression of condolences to his family and fans.

“The safety of our employees and guests is our highest priority,” said the the post said. “We have and will continue to keep our workplace as safe as possible.”

Respondents peppered the post with negative comments.

“Move it out of that hood! Everyone in Los Angeles knows it’s a death trap,” one user wrote, echoing a cascade of similar claims. “Either that or take more steps to protect your customers.”

In Manchester and Main, the place tends to be buzzing on regular Tuesdays, Carter said. But there were no gangs of teenagers or groups of friends, no regular workday customers or sweet dates like the ones I imagine Rock and his girlfriend would have had before Monday’s fateful confrontation.

Otherwise, the vibe was as artfully composed as locals have come to expect from the Roscoe brand: a perimeter of a single pink neon tube lined the edge of the ceiling; a framed photo of former President Obama hung near the cash register, showing him waving widely outside the chain’s rundown Pico Boulevard location. A soundtrack of beloved R&B classics played at a volume just above background level, but enjoyable for a soul food spot.

My plate arrived, as reliable as Roscoe himself. A relatively thin waffle disc, topped with a dollop of butter. Three tender batters in a crumbly fry, somewhat sweet. A plastic cup of lemonade and ice, with a floating layer of brown iced tea on top.

Rosa Miller, 60, was the only other diner besides our writer at Manchester and Main Roscoe's.

Rosa Miller, 60, was the only other person eating lunch at Roscoe’s on Manchester and Main, precisely 24 hours after PnB Rock was shot and killed.

(Daniel Hernandez/Los Angeles Times)

As he ate, Carter moved about, pulling chairs up on tables, sitting down, as if the restaurant was closing. It seemed unlikely that anyone else would enter. The place normally closes at 8 pm, he said, much earlier than other places.

Your best seller? The Obama Special: Three wings served with a waffle, potato salad, and fries.

“All of our employees, cooks, everyone, have worked here for 10 years or more,” Carter said. “It will take time, but it will return to normal. It’s just going to take a long time.”

The only other diner besides me was Rosa Miller, 60, who wore dyed purple hair and moved around with a walker.

“I just came to show my respect for the young man, because they are our next generation and this has to end,” Miller told me. “The violence has to stop, because you can’t even go out to eat.”

He added: “I had the chicken and waffles, and it was good too.”

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