>> Jerry's Place | Eat the World Los Angeles

Thursday 18 November 2021

Jerry's Place

Faded Crenshaw Blvd. facade

COVID-19 UPDATE: The restaurant always does a brisk takeout business, so most customers are not hanging around. There are a couple places to sit inside, with plenty of space between tables.

If you were buzzing by on Crenshaw Blvd. headed in either direction, there is almost no chance you would be able to discern what was inside the end of the strip mall that Jerry's Place is located. The "JER" has long been torn away from the window, and the sign on the awning is so faded you have to basically be standing under it to see the promise of "For all your African foods."

This generalization of the food happens inside as well, as only "African" is used to describe what are very Nigerian foods, at least to a non-Nigerian customer.  The lovely Ify is usually helming the kitchen, her name revealed by the many diners whom were heard addressing her as if they were longtime friends. During one dine-in lunch it seemed they all knew her (and each other) quite well.

Egusi soup with fufu

The hand-written chalkboard menu that sits on the counter is long, but make sure to start a conversation and ask what is available on any given day, as it is not everything. On top of the menu and probably always available is egusi soup ($20, above), a Nigerian favorite made from melon seeds and about a hundred other lively flavors heavy in bitter leaves and onions. You will be asked if you want it spicy, and the correct answer to this question is yes, as a non-spicy egusi soup just would not hit the same way.

You can ask to substitute white rice if that pleases you, but the real starch pairing to go for is fufu. This dense pounded cassava should be rolled into balls not more than one bite, never bite off a piece from a larger amount. Fufu can be sticky, so it helps to wet your fingers before starting each bite to prevent it from sticking to your fingers. After rolling the ball, make a small indent that will act as the scoop. Use your thumb to push a good amount of the soup towards your fufu and press firmly.

Jollof rice with mixed meats

The menu also has the symbols of various credit cards, but make sure to bring cash as that is the only form of payment taken at the moment. Another dish usually available is jollof rice ($20, above), a dish that Ghanaians think tastes funny when made in Nigeria, but is full of smoky and earthy aroma and flavor. The rice is made red from tomatoes and keeps their slightly sweet and sour notes as well.

Jollof rice is typically served with a "soup" of mixed meats like those found in the egusi, a combination of beef, chicken, and sometimes fish. Nigerians and West Africans generally like their meats tougher than those in the north, but never accept an offer of "American chicken" in your meals even though the gesture is very kind. It is also full of offal so make sure to speak about this if you would prefer other cuts.

Closer look at mixed meats included with jollof rice

Taking one of your dishes at a table here is a fun way to watch the Nigerians of the South Bay come and go for their daily lunches, chatting and gossiping in the small time they see each other. You might not think it is open from the outside, and it may take a ring of the bell on the counter to find someone inside, but eventually everything will come to life.

A business card shows Gerry's but the signs say Jerry's, and in either case the namesake does not seem to be around much. An unused TV mount is on one wall, but a TV is plugged in elsewhere just in case. At least in November, the fans are also unused and silent as well. Somehow the sparseness of everything is all welcoming after a few minutes.

๐Ÿ“ 14044 Crenshaw Blvd., Gardena, South Bay


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