Chef Mike Shand brings a healthy, affordable, unique cooking style to Los Angeles with his Love Baked Wings, which opened on Melrose Avenue just last September.
Living up to his slogan, “Baked, not fried. Because we love you,” Shand eschews freezers, fryers, and microwaves as well as high fructose corn syrup, using only all-natural free-range chicken, an almost entirely gluten-free menu with the exception of sandwich buns and croutons, and sustainably-raised and locally-farmed meat and produce. He’s Title 24 energy compliant as well, and uses disposables crafted from compostable, recyclable materials that minimize landfill contributions.
Sodas? Yes, but you won’t find the mainstream commercial brands here. Instead there’s the delightful Oogave all-natural agave-sweetened sodas. Vegetarians and vegans are also surprisingly well served at a spot renowned for its wings – instead of chicken wings, Shand can hook them up with his delicious chickpea baked wings.
Of course, all of this environmental friendliness would count for little if the food itself were not exceptional—but it is, and all made from scratch.
Wings—both traditional chicken and the vegan chickpea variety—can be ordered with a variety of sauces including a just-recently-introduced freshly made version of Buffalo Wing flavor. But there are many more options, including the spicy LBW Infamous, sesame ginger, gluten-free tamari soy glaze, burning jerk, garlic Parmesan cheese and rosemary rubs.
Dipping sauces range from blue cheese to jalapeno ranch dressing and both rubs and dips, like everything else on hand, are made in-house from fresh ingredients.
Shand, who has toured with and cheffed for Beyonce and Adele, describes his game plan. “I want this to be a healthy alternative to classic favorites. Everything is baked, not fried, and yet it tastes delicious.” Shand grew up on a produce and poultry farm in New Zealand and is incorporating lessons learned there into his restaurant. “No one ever fried anything on the farm,” he asserts. “We were very respectful to the earth and to animals.”
Shand developed many of his recipes while on tour, honing them before opening his restaurant in September 2015.
“We haven’t done one bit of advertising or marketing since we opened,” he says. “But we’re as busy as we want to be. We tell people to just forget what you think you know about wings and try it all here, and they do. Everything is carefully crafted, finished with real, fresh ingredients, nothing from a bottle or can.”
And what about those vegetarian options? “Our chickpea wings are very popular in the local community,” he asserts. “So are the carrot fries we offer, dusted with gluten-free flour, they’re nice and crisp.” A tasty chopped kale salad or house salad featuring arugula, pecans, and cucumbers also makes being veg easy on the taste buds here. There are pickled cucumbers and crispy potato wedges, too.
Shand is dedicated to reducing the obesity epidemic in the U.S., and with food choices as flavorful and crispy crunchy as these, he may reach his personal goals.
Terming his entrees interesting alternatives to what people are used to when it comes to wings, Shand’s unassuming descriptions belie the popularity of his venue. For partner Dane Drewis, who handles the behind-the-scenes managerial aspects of the enterprise, and the crowds it draws, “it’s all about good tasting, healthy food, and I’m excited to be a part of it. Teaching people it doesn’t have to be fried to be good is important.”
Tasting is believing, and whether you want a quick and healthy lunch or are looking for a healthy but yummy catering experience, you’ll find Love Baked Wings is worth clucking about.
The store is located at:
7350 Melrose Ave. – Suite A
Los Angeles (323) 424-4300