As you know if you've been eating in LA for any length of time, some of our best food is in strip malls. I often think about which strip malls have the best combination of food, the widest variety or the just plain weirdest.
There is a strip mall I love on Third and New Hampshire that has a Oaxacan place, a doughnut shop and a Hawaiian barbecue. I've always been partial to the Santa Monica Boulevard strip mall that has both La Pupusa Loca and a Pizza Loca.
But I can't think of any better strip mall for a single meal than the Inglewood mall which includes Phillip's Barbecue and Harriet's Cheesecake.
Phillip's is a classic South LA BBQ (and yes, I prefer it to competitor Woody's)which reliably doles out amazing ribs and spicy links with traditional sides of baked beans, potato salad and greens. I prefer their beef ribs to the pork and I can't get enough of the spicy beef links, all bathed in the rich Phillip's BBQ sauce.
Harriet's Cheesecake is lesser known but comparably wonderful. Just to the left of Phillip's, Harriet's is not obvious to the passerby. It now has a sign, a big addition, but it still resembles a vacant storefront, lacking even the simplest elements of decor. When you walk in you will see only a small counter and an empty planter. This is clearly a shop which relies on those in the know.
Behind the counter is a dry-erase marker board showing a massive list of pies. On any given day, though, they will only have a few of these, so you need to summon someone from the back and ask what they have that day. Don't worry though, as they are all excellent.
One of my favorites is the pecan praline. The cheesecake itself is sweet and chewy, textured almost like it has some ricotta in the base. The cake is topped with nuts and drizzled with some caramel. The result is irresistible.
The graham cracker crust at Harriet's may be even better than the wonderful cheesecake. The thick crust must be made with a pound or two of butter, enough, anyway, to create an almost cookie-like substance which sticks to the pie pan until you peel it off and eat it plain. I can't say I've had a better pie crust than Harriet's.
At Harriet's, slices are $6 and a small cheesecake goes for around $23.
1517 Centinela Ave
Inglewood, CA 90302
1515 Centinela Ave
Inglewood, CA 90302