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Zankou Chicken....TERRIBLE

  • d

This place is awful. Ive eaten at the Hollywood and West LA branch and I have no idea what the big fuss is. My Ronco rotisserie makes better chicken then this. Please tell me what the hype is about...I just dont get it.

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  1. cheap, some people LOVE the garlic sauce, the hummus is pretty good

    1. Some have had good experiences; some have not.
      Some like it; some don't.

      If my only experience was the Hollywood store, I would never return.
      But, the Anaheim store has been great every time I've visited.

      I've also heard rants about the Anaheim branch

      1 Reply
      1. re: Curt
        David Feldman

        FWIW, I've had the same experience -- the Anaheim location has been the most consistent (I haven't visited the West L.A. branch).

      2. In general, I've had dry chicken. Although, the key is how you eat it I think.

        I take chunks of chicken, and put it in little pillows of ripped up Pita Bread.

        Then put some tomatos and pickled raddish or whatever that stuff is inside...mini Zankou-taco. Then sometimes I put Hummus in there. Then smear it or dip it in the garlic sauce.

        Its good that way. I wouldn't eat the chicken alone...I barely would even just the chicken + garlic spread. But the little mini-pita-sandwhiches with EVERYTHING together is why I return.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Xericx

          I agree.. there's something about putting a pita together with everything in it that is addictive.. everything meaning a schmear of garlic sauce, hummus, the tomatoes, radish, and chicken. The one in Glendale is consistently good.

          1. re: Xericx

            The one experience I had there found the chicken very dry. Didn't get the whole rave about the garlic sauce, but I'd try it again as suggested.

            1. re: SpongeBobSquarePegs

              Concur...dry chicken, feh on the garlic sauce.

          2. Okay, it's really important when you review a restaurant... especially when wording your topic so strongly... to explain why you feel that way.


            "My Ronco rotisserie makes better chicken..."

            .says nothing, especially seeing that a notable $84 multi-course chicken-based meal that has received near-universal acclaim on this board is prepared on a Ronco Rotisserie.

            I think that this goes equally strongly for restaurants that you like. Posting:

            "This place is fantastic. I just dont get the complaints."

            Is just as meaningless.

            Personally, I've had some great meals, and some less than stellar ones' at Zankou. It's uneven.

            There are those who say that it used to be better -- based on my experience, I suspect this is the rosey lense of memory. Of course, the prices were once quite a bit lower.

            If you love garlic, the garlic sauce is a revalation, there's nothing else quite like it in LA. If you love outrageously fatty roasted chicken that has been rendered down to schmatlz with a prefectly crisp skin and reasonably moist flesh, you'll get it approximately half the time at Zankou. Time of day, phase of the moon, your zodiacal sign all have some relevance, but what that relevance might be is ineffable.

            The tarna sandwich is great, uniquely seasoned, usually heavily daubed with sauce, and very tasty... but it is DRY. If you're there for moist chicken this isn't an option, you're much better off taking your chances on the half chicken plate.

            All that being said, I don't have any investment in whether or not you LIKE Zankou... I'd just like to know specifically what it is that you don't like... that way, I might be able to recommend a chicken restaurant that you'd like.

            . and if you really do love your Ronco chicken, try the Melisse $84 chicken dinner that Josiah Citrin has put together. It IS consistantly good.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Homer

              Zankou is very average Lebanese chicken and garlic you can find at lots of places especially downtown, Hollywood, Glendale, Pasadena, etc at Sultan, Mediterranean Cafe, etc, It is the pollo loco of Lebanese style chicken no more no less.

              1. re: Iskander S.

                Its ARMENIAN - not LEBANESE

                1. re: blackbookali

                  Since Armenians live and have come from many different countries in that part of the world, and of course now including Glendale, could you please differentiate the difference between Lebanese and Armenian for the unknowing?

                  1. re: carter

                    Hi Carter. Since your question is not specific to Los Angeles chow please put up your message over on our General Topics board, (see link to take you there). Please, no replies here as we will be taking down this question as soon as Carter has been able to put up his new message on GT.

                    Thanks for your cooperation.

                    Link: http://www.chowhound.com/boards/gener...

                    1. re: carter

                      OK. To get by the rules and keep this question relevant to LA.

                      Since Armenians live and have come from many different countries in that part of the world, and of course now including Glendale, could you please differentiate the difference between Lebanese and Armenian AND recommend LA/OC restaurants that adhere to those distinctions for the unknowing?

                      1. re: zruilong

                        Many Armenian foods are variations of foods from the Armenian diaspora including Russia, Turkey, Greece, Iran, and Lebanon. These different encluturations of Armenians have resulted in nuances and adaptations of the ethnic foods from those parts and lumped in with traditional Armenian dishes. That's why so many Lebanese restaurants around LA serve dishes that are also traditionally served in Armenian homes and claimed as being authentically Armenian (not that all of them in their served form are authentically Armenian). As far as the difference between Armenians and Lebanese go, I don't care as long as the food is good and the people are kind both amongst themselves, to each other, and to the folks they meet who are neither Armenian nor Lebanese. I speak as a first generation Armenian who is grateful to enjoy my ethnic foods among the food of our Lebanese friends with my Nicaraguan, African American, and Korean friends joining us:) it's a frightening sight, really, to see the amount of food my group can put away once my "U.N." shows up at a restaurant. lol

              2. I'm surprised by most of the posts on this place. While I have had a rare dry bird, my usual experience is that this is one of the best deals in the entire country(even at the "inflated" $8 or so for a bird, garlic, and pita that will feed four). For $2 a head you have to cut it some slack. Melisse may be worth 40x as much, (not including the wine markups), but only when money doesn't count at all.
                I also have not noticed any change in the quality over the past ten years. I get the feeling that there is some luck involved - they never discard a chicken that is overdone, much to their discredit, and there is apparently no way to slow down the stacked fat dripping rotiserries. I have had better experiences at the Glendale location than elsewhere, possibly because the community provides such a high turnover of chickens that they don't have time to get overdone. I usually go early (before 6pm) and have rarely had anything but a moist, crisp, salty skinned marvel. At its best there is simply nothing like it. At its worst... well, you've been ripped off.
                I would also suggest getting the mutabal (roasted eggplant) and spreading that along with the garlic sauce in a chicken filled pita. A deeper flavor than the hummus and a one of a kind experience and the moistness can salvage a dry bird (I'm not justifying these occasional disasters, just saying that they are not a total waste).

                1. I, too, have had uniformly good meals at the Anaheim store. One trick is to go when they're busy -- when they are cycling lots of chickens through the ovens and yours is fresh and juicy because there's a new chicken waiting to take its place. A couple weeks ago I was there with a friend and I had to wait about 10 min. for my chicken. It was great.

                  And the mutabal -- roasted, pureed eggplant -- is a wonderful addition.

                  1. Zankou has a zealous following for so many reasons. Personally, I like the food, the borderline grumpy service and the complete lack of decor.

                    IMO, here are a few more reasons for Zankou's reputation:

                    - a locally grown business and an immigrant success story, who doesn't love that?
                    - a dining experience unique to LA (I have never had it elsewhere - I am guessing it is due in large part to LA's huge Armenian community. I've had great Peruvian-style chicken, great soul-food chicken in other cities but nothing approximating Zankou outside of So Cal.)
                    - it is cheap and you can feed people for a ridiculously small amount of cash.
                    - diversity of clientele: starving artists, hipsters, studio-types, tourists and gourmands you see them all in line at Zankou
                    - it is a non-sequitur in a silly, funky song and that makes people feel in on something special or hip or funny(?)

                    I am sorry to hear about your "TERRIBLE" experience and truly hope you and your Ron Popeil rotisserie live happily ever after.

                    1. d
                      Dogbite Williams

                      It's funny - nobody has mentioned the flagship location at Sunset and Normandie. Nearly all of my meals at that spot have been fine. That place is very successful and it has expanded substantially.

                      I have had very uneven luck at the Van Nuys location. That spot does suffer in the off-peak hours with the lukewarm chickens.

                      1. All i get there is the tarna sandwich and the m'tabel (baba ganouj). They're both fine and for the money, excellent.

                        1. Good hummus. Like the mutaabal.

                          I've never been to those locations. Awful and terrible would not describe the Pasadena location.

                          The Pasadena location is pretty good. The only dry part of the chicken is the non-drummette part of the wing otherwise the rest is juicy and flavorful. Crispy flavorful skin sealing in the juices.

                          I usually get the half chicken plate.

                          $7.98 for a whole chicken is a great deal from anyplace that is not a supermarket.

                          The chicken tarna is delicious as well. I get the tri tip shawarma once in a while.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: yokozuna

                            I got the half chicken from the Pas. location as my only Zankou experience. It was ok. Never went again though -- ok chicken in an ugly storefront doesn't do it for me.

                          2. Zankou is ok. But I too, don't see why this place has such a devoted following not seen since Jonestown. Come on people, put the cup of kool-aid.. er, garlic sauce.. down and look around you. I've tried Zankou's chicken, their tarna, several times. While it's good, it's hardly great. If I had been the one to discover this place, I would have been embarassed to recommend it to Chowhound.

                            In the flavor ratio, Costco makes a superior and cheaper brined, roast chicken, that you can taste the flavor even in the drier breast meat.

                            As for the garlic paste... it's interesting, but still bland to my tongue. I prefer the spicy aji of Pollo a la Brasa. At least it's got a nice healthy kick to it.

                            The pita bread would have been nicer if they'd warm it up a bit. Tasted cold and lifeless.

                            Muttabal is fine, I guess. Doesn't really do anything for me.

                            Sure, if you wanna compare it to the other chain chicken restaurants, I'd probably pick Zankou over the others. But to those who think that Zankou chicken is the poultry Messiah's second coming, I would point to some other dish, maybe a ludhiana chicken, or a good Hainan chicken rice, or maybe a twice-cooked kalasan fried chicken.

                            Zankou... terrible? No. Good? Sometimes. Awesome? You gotta be kidding me.

                            13 Replies
                            1. re: Joe C

                              LA institution.

                              1. re: Joe C

                                Sorry, Costco's chicken is garbage compared to Zankou IMHO

                                Not to mention crispy skin at zankou = awesome. You never get that at Costco.

                                1. re: ns1

                                  I agree about the Costco chicken. Something about the texture and subtle aftertaste makes it absolutely inedible for me. I'm not sure if it's the heat lamps that are roasting it for hours or the preparation of the birds before they're cooked. I really want to like their chicken because it is by far the best value in town.

                                  As far as Zankou goes, it's been hit and miss for me but mostly a hit. The chicken has been tender to juicy but occasionally a little on the dry side and the sides have been fresh and tasty and I usually don't use any of the garlic paste to enhance flavor (a health choice and not one of like or dislike). Calling it downright awful and blasting it with no details of your experience (the original reviewer) makes me wonder if there's some other agenda for the bad review.

                                  1. re: mrshankly

                                    I could live on Costco chicken--love it. And actually it doesn't sit under the lamps for hours--they time stamp each chicken--the longest off the rotisserie one I have ever had is 30 minutes but usually get 10 or 20 minutes. I love the skin & seasoning & mine have always been moist.

                                    1. re: mrshankly

                                      "Calling it downright awful and blasting it with no details of your experience makes me wonder if there's some other agenda for the bad review."
                                      Your quote above sounds like your comments regarding Costco Chicken, which is far superior to anything that Zankou puts out, yet I too will go to the Sepulveda Zankou location, even on my way to get a chicken from Costco.
                                      If you don't like Costco chicken, try lamb or beef or duck or pork next time.

                                      1. re: carter

                                        I have nothing against Costco chicken (in fact I said I wanted to like it because it's a great value) but like others have agreed to here, the texutre is uniquely different from Zankou (not better or worse) and unappealing to me, personally. Perhaps it isn't heat lamps or anything unsavory that are involved but just different preparation and choice of poultry. To each their own but Carter, I respectuflly recommend you read the posts carefully before taking comments out of context.

                                        1. re: mrshankly

                                          It's the hormones they put in the chicken.

                                          1. re: granadafan

                                            Hugo Chávez says hormone-laden chicken makes it harder for us to be men. This from a guy who voluntarily wears berets. Yeah.

                                      2. re: mrshankly

                                        Concur...I really want to like Costco chicken...it's inexpensive and very large, but the texture is mushy and the fat isn't rendered out of the skin - the dark pieces are slimy, not moist...and I too am not a fan of the flavorings.

                                        It does make a decent chicken salad sandwich the next day, however!

                                        To the OP, I love Zankou...been going to various locations now for 15 years on a regular basis and it seems no different than day one...one thing, the chicken tastes better when you eat it there - the skin stays crisp and doesn't get soft and steamy.

                                        1. re: manku


                                          Texture is crap, seasonings aren't as good as Zankou IMHO. YMMV. Don't get me wrong, I WANT to love Costco's chicken, and hell I used to, but it just doesn't do it for me anymore.

                                          I eat at Zankou all the time. It's cheap, filling, and usually quite good. Sometimes later at night the chicken is a bit dry, but when I go during lunch it's always spot on.

                                          This applies to NoHo location only.

                                          1. re: manku

                                            The main reason it is mushy is because they use cheap industrial chicken which is soaked in water at the slaughter house to increase the weight (this is an old trick meat packing companies use to increase the weight as it is sold by the pound). The water logged meat steams from the inside out while it is cooked and thus turns mushy. That's a huge problem with any industrial grade chicken. Personally, I try to buy only free range organic chickens which aren't from the industrial producers. Most of those companies use ozone gas as a disinfectant instead of submersion into a water & bleach solution and the chicken actually tastes better because it isn't water logged. Of course, the single best chicken I have ever had came from a friends flock he keeps in his yard and slaughtered himself. That chicken was just packed with flavor and he cooked it and spiced it perfectly on his rotisserie.

                                            1. re: oerdin

                                              Thanks for posting this. I buy my chicken from Lily's at Santa Monica Farmer's Market. Those chickens are as good as the Jidori chickens. Paid $14.00 for fresh 4lb chicken and another couple of $$ for herbs. Beats the hell out of Zankou.

                                              1. re: maudies5

                                                This is an excellent point. A lot of low and slow cooking techniques, like rotisserie roasting, braising, etc. became popular because of their ability to convert stringy, tough, cartilaginous meat from pastured, and often quite mature, animals to tender and succulent food. A plus was that the animals' lifestyle contributed to complex and desirable flavor. Industrial meat has none of those qualities, and low and slow cooking techniques just amplify its tasteless mushiness. Industrial meat can be palatable in hot and fast cooking applications where it develops quick caramelization or where it is quickly flavored in a moist environment. IMHO it still won't compete with pastured meat on taste.

                                    2. I've eaten at most of the Zankous and I've never had a bad meal at any of them, may it is because I always get the chicken. I especially love the garlic sauce and always get extra. The only chicken I like better is Juan Pollo from the Inland Empire, but they do now have an LA branch thankfully.

                                      Zankou Chicken
                                      1001 N San Fernando Blvd, Burbank, CA 91504

                                      1. I like it, but I almost always get the Tri-Tip plate. It's like the best Carne Asada, only better and with pita bread. Some rice, the veggies, some hummus and that other sauce, wow.
                                        For the record, I go to the Pasadena branch. Now, MY main complaint is:
                                        every time I order, I ask them to please, PLEASE leave off the purple radishes. I explain that my girlfriend hates them, that I don't want them, could they PLEASE LEAVE THE DAMN THINGS OFF...and I usually get extra purple radishes. If I'm alone, I'll hold up two dollars over the tip jar and say, "they're going in if the purple things stay out." Even THAT has a fifty-fifty success rate. If I ordered a sandwich without mustard and Subway made me one with mustard, they'd make me a new one and apologize. Zankou shrugs. (For the record: it's not the taste. I don't eat purple food. It's me, okay?)

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: flowerofhighrank

                                          I haven't tried the tri tip but I will, sounds good, I'll check that out. And no, they won't leave the purple radishes off, it's like you've insulted them for asking! And as for the chicken, I agree with the above poster that the $5 Costco brined and rotisserie roasted chicken is far superior IMHO. I love those garlic sauces at those places though :-)

                                          1. re: flowerofhighrank

                                            They aren't radishes. They are pickled turnips and the color is from beet juice, I think. And they are delish.

                                            1. re: mlgb

                                              Glad you like the beet-stained turnips, but it ought to be possible to exclude any item you don't like. What is this -- Father's Office? ;-)

                                              As a matter of fact, however, I generally have Zankou carryout several times a year (usually in Pasadena) and always request "no ickles," and they always comply. Last night, for example, I stopped by one of the new locations and got my food exactly as ordered. (With this thread in mind, I really emphasized my preference, and the girl gave me a yeah-buddy-I-understood-the-first-two-times look.)

                                              By the way, the food -- both chicken and other items -- is ... decent and tasty. It's an occasional inexpensive convenience, not a life-changing or even mood-changing choice.

                                            2. re: flowerofhighrank

                                              I've had no problems when I ask the counter person to leave off "the pickles" and add/sub extra chilies!

                                              Zankou Chicken
                                              5658 Sepulveda Blvd Ste 103, Van Nuys, CA 91411

                                            3. I've been getting Zankou in Pasadena once a week for the last several months as my kitchen is being renovated. If I could be adventurous every day of the week in planning meals for my family, perhaps I would step out of my comfort zone. I know from the workers at my house that I should be trying El Pollo Unico but the traffic and parking is miserable due to an auto parts and 7-11 sharing the lot. That being said, all though inconsistent, Zankou is reliable. If I got a chicken that was too well done, the next time I ordered and told them apologetically, they would actually show me the chicken I was getting for my approval. Some times the pieces are chintzy. Again, if I complain, they show me for my approval before packaging. Sometimes the garlic sauce is a little too lemony. Sometimes the muttabal is not as quite as smoky as I like. Even so, I think it is some of the best muttabal I've ever had. And yes, I've eaten a lot of both Israeli and Armenian food to give this opinion. Even though I'm not a big hummus fan, theirs is very good Sometimes the turnips are a bit mushy or the tomatoes aren't as ripe as they could be. But you know what? It hits the spot. And, I have never had attitude at this location. Everyone I have ever dealt with has been lovely. By the way, I've never heard anyone mention their rice. It is delicious!!!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Fru

                                                We've been getting take-out from the Pasadena store for nearly a decade and never been disappointed. I think it does help to go at rush hour: Chickens are flying out the door between 5 and 6 p.m.!

                                              2. Koo Koo Roo is another awful chicken place that baffles me - it's awful and is quite expensive considering how little one gets for their dough.

                                                1. I've never had a problem with the Van Nuys restaurant. I mean, it's always hot and crisp and juicy and I probably eat there at least 2 or 3 times a month.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: bosanova99

                                                    Zankou's never done anything for me but I sure enjoyed reading the Los Angeles Magazine article about the "Zankou Chicken Murders". I'd rather eat at Peruvian chicken places, Koo Koo Roo or El Pollo Loco.

                                                  2. I have loved Zankou for years, especially the Hollywood location. Sure it has gotten a bit more expensive, but to me the quality has been the same since I have been going there, since 1996 or so.

                                                    I love to get a whole chicken and a falafel plate and extra pickles, and make sandwiches with all the ingredients, slathering on the garlic, tahini and hummus. I have also found the chickens to be moist and succulent, and have always enjoyed the experience greatly.

                                                    Also used to go to the Burbank one, which I didn't like as well, but found it excellent for a decent, though not cheap lunch. I did find the chicken a bit more dry in Burbank, but still found with the addition of the garlic sauce that it made for tasty lunches.

                                                    1. OMG. It made me sad to see this post title but I'm happy to see that most people agree with me that Zankou Chicken is DA BOMB!!

                                                      1. For me, it's about the chicken tarna. Well flavored, and always moist... yum!

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: a_and_w

                                                          Always moist, really? My criticism of the chicken tarna is that it's always dry to me, at least at the Hollywood location. But it is really well flavored!

                                                          1. re: sillygoosedown

                                                            Hmmm... can't recall ever having dry tarna at the Sepulveda branch.

                                                            1. re: sillygoosedown

                                                              Never had a problem at the Toluca Lake branch

                                                              1. re: sillygoosedown

                                                                I have this problem too. I've never had moist tarna at Zankou, even at the (usually much better) Anaheim shop, and so now I avoid it.

                                                              1. re: LuluTheMagnificent

                                                                I always like the Hollywood for the whole chickens. So moist and delicious, but they only take Cash.

                                                                1. re: jonahlee

                                                                  The one on sunset? I just paid with a credit card.

                                                              2. One of my first CH disappointments.

                                                                (Doesn't hold a candle to the disaster rec of La Palma chicken pie shop though!)

                                                                1. Not everyone can visit this place but Soumarelo Chikcen is the best in my own opinion.

                                                                  I never understood the fuss about Zankou either. If you are in the Pasadena area I'd say give them a try but call ahead to make sure he has chicken first.

                                                                  Honestly his chicken is amazing, always moist and flavorful and the garlic sauce isnt overpowering like Zankou's. He also gives this interesting sweet and sour red sauce that is delicious as well.

                                                                  His chicken would be more Greek unlike Zankou but it is miles better I say.

                                                                  Soumarelo Restaurant
                                                                  1090 N. Allen Ave., Pasadena, CA 91104

                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Johnny L

                                                                    Hi Johnnie L... You wrote: "I never understood the fuss about Zankou either. If you are in the Pasadena area I'd say give them (Soumarelo) a try but call ahead to make sure he has chicken first."... Well, part of the "fuss" about Zankou is that a) one doesn't need to be in the Pasadena area only, and b) one doesn't need to call ahead to make sure that they have chicken on any given day. I'm sure Soumarelo (per your recommendation) makes a fine chicken, but if I had to be in Pasadena or if I had to call to make sure they had chicken available every time I wanted some rotisserie chicken, that'd be a deal breaker for a spontaneous craving. The "fuss" over Zanjou's chicken is that its available at multiple locations and they serve/sell chicken every day that they are open.

                                                                    1. re: silence9

                                                                      ...Yes, but were that it tasted good...

                                                                      1. re: silence9

                                                                        oh yes I definitely do understand what you mean but for the most part if you are ordering for yourself you probably do not need to call ahead. The guy doesn't have a super large operation like Zankou therefore his resources are definitely more limited.

                                                                        I mean I do understand that it may not be in the most convenient location but for those of us who are willing or lucky enough to live within reasonable distance I don't see why I wouldn't get my chicken from there.

                                                                        But I don't think that the "fuss" of having rotisserie chicken available all the time at Zankou is a good enough reason for me to eat there. Honestly I'd rather eat at El Pollo Loco because at least they consistently sell chicken that isn't dried out.

                                                                        1. re: Johnny L

                                                                          My few visits to El Pollo Loco have been VERY disappointing. Sepulveda Zankou blows them away, imo.

                                                                          1. re: a_and_w

                                                                            Hmm, well there could be variance on the quality with different locations, the only one I've been to was the one in Pasadena near the community college and I've never really been impressed with the food.

                                                                            1. re: a_and_w

                                                                              The WLA Zankou has never sold me anything but fresh, hot and juicy chicken.

                                                                      2. Terrible?? Give me a break. Can't believe I'm even posting a reply to this topic.

                                                                        1 Reply