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Zankou. Downhill fast AND they changed the garlic paste!!!

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Yikes!

I went to the Glendale Zankou today for the first time. I have been going only to the Hollywood location for 6 years now and WOW. I was so disappointed. First off...the once amazing garlic paste is now served in a pre-packaged and foil-sealed container. The clear plastic ones with the plastic lid was nowhere to be seen. Secondly, the flavor is totally different with this newly packaged paste. The garlic was almost undetectable and it had a very oily, lemony taste to it. Kinda like a tangy Crisco flavor. I was so shocked that I went up to the counter and asked them if they change the garlic paste recipe. The lady at the counter responded with a quick "No" and she went on to helping another customer.

Okay. SO that's the garlic paste rant. On to the chicken. It was dry and so under salted. Heck a rotisserie chicken from Ralph's has more flavor. The hummus was blah. The pita bread was good but that was from a package and well, pita bread is pretty hard to change especially from a package. As far as the pickled turnips and chopped tomato side? It was okay...not very fresh and a bit mushy. It was a sad day for me in Zankou-land. Anyone else?

Has anyone noticed the garlic paste gone wrong???

And the chicken too??

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  1. I love to hate zankou. I don't go there for a long time and then I do go and get the food and then I get pissed that I wasted a meal that I will never get back again. Then time flows by and I say "hey! i'm gonna get some zankou!" and then I get pissed because that's a meal I'll never get back again. Remind me to make notes.

    Yes I hate the prepackaged garlic butter(?).

    1. Bah. I hadn't gone since I started hearing the downhill reports a couple years ago. I first went when I first moved to Pasadena 7 years ago and it was a staple, being right down the street from me. Sad to hear how things have turned out.

      1. you've got to be kidding!

        1. There was a 100-post thread from last summer that has some explanation of what's been happening with the chain, as well as complaints.

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/399999

          1. I believe each of the restaurants is owned by different family members. There was a Mild falling out some years ago. So there might be differences between them.

            Mardiros Iskenderian, 56, founder of the popular Zankou Chicken restaurant chain, shot and killed his sister, Dzovig Marjik, 45, and his mother Marjarit

            3 Replies
            1. re: LuigiOrtega

              I went to the Hollywood location recently and got the chicken tarna plate and a side of tabbouleh. Delish, amazing value IMO. I've never gone wrong at any location.

              1. re: aventinus

                I was in Zankou on Sepulveda not long ago and took a menu. The Hollywood location isn't on there, so they must be out of the chain but the Zankou sign is still up.

                1. re: Barbara Ladden

                  Ok, I JUST went to the Sunset Zankou (the original) for the first time in a while and it seems nothing has changed. There was no noticeable difference in pricing or taste and the garlic paste was served in the "traditional" solo cup with removable lid. So I've had the prepackaged garlic at the West LA branch (and higher prices there too??) but Hollywood seems good as ever.

            2. I maintain that of all the locations, the Anaheim one is still best. The garlic paste does come in the foil-wrapped tubs but it is pure essence of garlic -- not sure where the "Crisco taste" comes from, as I haven't had that at Glendale or Burbank either. The chicken's always been a bit dry, hence the garlic paste... and the hummus, well, if you want great hummus then you go to Skaf's, Carnival or Sunnin, not Zankou.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                Everytime I've gone to Zankou, I wished I didn't go: Waste of stomach space. Dry chicken. Not much natural flavor from the chicken.

                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  I agree--the Anaheim one is the best. The one in Westwood has really mediocre service. The last time I was there, I ordered the mango drink, and they just gave me a number even though it comes in a can and they have the fridge right under the counter. I waited for a few minutes, it was obvious that they weren't going to call my number, and the girl behind the counter was ticked off that I interrupted her texting on her phone to ask for the drink.

                2. Went to Zanko Pasadena about a month ago. Noticed the pre-fab/pre-packaged garlic a while ago and kinda knew it was the beginning of the end. Makes you wonder how or why business owners change the values that are credited to what made thier place "great". I remember when McDonalds was actually a kinda decent burger to eat, remember? when you could see the guy in the back COOKING your burger (rather than pulling it out of some warmer box with tongs)???

                  One thing I noticed about Zanko, was that the people behind the counter seemed to be way nicer and more smiley than before. Can it be possible that they can't serve good food without being crabby? or vica versa?

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: WheresTheGrub

                    I went to the Van Nuys location a couple of months ago and was extremely disappointed in the pre-packaged paste. It tastes nothing like it used to. I said something to the woman at the counter who brusquely said they have not changed the recipe (now it would be a formula). I got the feeling she's heard that before. Funny, when I drive by now, it's never as crowded as it used to be. Really, they deserve a drop in business. As someone else said, you mess with your success, don't be surprised when you lose your customers.

                    1. re: dlundin

                      Isn't it funny how many businesses don't seem to realize "if it ain't broke don't fix it?" And how everyone can see the negative effects of the changes they made, except the businesses themselves. I stopped goingt to Zankou a while ago because the rudeness of the employees greatly outweighed the goodness of the chicken. There are better places to get that sort of chicken.

                      1. re: monkuboy

                        Du-Par's is another place that doesn't know that maxim, as they changed their world famous pancake recipe, and not for the better (notwithstanding all of the lies in the press to the contrary).

                        1. re: Jack Flash

                          You know, for a while, the pancakes were different. But the last time I went I got the silver dollar pancakes and they were as good as they ever were. However, the insane price jumps and different servers (I miss the old ladies) keep me away from Dupars, For the same price level we can go to Square One and get Nueske's bacon.

                          1. re: fooddude37

                            I was at Du-Par's a couple weeks ago - early on a Sunday evening - and we had positively wonderful older female servers - they really made the meal for us (our food was fine) - this was at the Studio City location.

                            Maybe I need to try the silver dollar pancakes next go 'round.

                  2. I'm still a fan. I frequent the Anahem one, but have been to almost all branches. The new pre-packaged sauce seems weaker but not awful to me. Hummus seems unchanged. Ok, maybe 1/4 of the time the chicken's dry, but I just slather on more hummus & sauce. :) Still one of the better deals out their IMO.

                    1. i think it largely depends on what time of day you eat there. higher turnover=fresher chicken. off hours can be pretty dreadful.

                      personally i find the hollywood location to be VERY uneven, but as far as i know they still use the old garlic sauce in the plastic container. generally the quality in W.LA tends to be much better.

                      anyone have any ideas for an alternative in the little armenia area? i've been to arax and marouch...

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: ronsilverado

                        Went to a Zankou chicken for the first time, and to the West LA location. Have to say, I was not impressed. Overcooked and small chicken with not alot of flavor. Bland pita. I dont know. I didnt get the excitement. Personally I still go for Pollo Loco for chain chicken.

                        1. re: ronsilverado

                          "i think it largely depends on what time of day you eat there. higher turnover=fresher chicken."

                          Very true. We always only go during peak times to any chicken place.

                        2. I went to the West LA branch about three weeks ago and had the first taste of the prepackaged garlic paste and I really didn't find it any different than before, other than the container.

                          1. I have to agree with you regarding the paste. I really like garlic and loved the garlic butter. I feel that it has definitely gone the commercial route and lost some of that home style goodness. I used to think the Glendale was was the best... I was at the Pasadena one a couple of weeks ago and it was packed! I waited like 20 mins for my order. Even though the overall quality has gone down, I still haven't found a place that has that good of a chicken tarna plate. Most of the other places I've tried are really bland. I've also experienced the soggy pickled turnips.. urgh..

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: karynx78

                              the closest i've come to a better tarna sandwich than zankou has been sham in santa monica. despite the soso review j.gold gave it a few months ago, i have been pretty happy with it the few times i have been there.

                              a BIG difference (and something zankou has never offered) is their use of homemade pitas. the sandwich is then put into a press and comes out almost like tarna panini, of sorts. really, really good.

                              does anyone know of other places that make their own pitas?

                              1. re: ronsilverado

                                I strongly second the chicken shawarma sandwich (or combo platter, which is huge) at Sham -- I order this from them weekly. It's possible to get a bad batch every once in a while, but when they're on, they blow Zankou out of the water. The garlic paste is very similar, but keep in mind that it's home made, so the strength and consistency can sometimes vary. I really love their mutabal, fava beans, and artichokes, which are all very garlicky too.

                                PS: Just read Gold's review. "Lead dense" falafel? That's never been my experience. Sounds like he got unlucky...

                              2. re: karynx78

                                Burbank has the slow service problem.