Friday, August 10, 2007

Zankou Chicken, Southern California

Zankou Chicken
Mediterranean quick service chicken

Technically, Zankou Chicken is considered a quick service restaurant (QSR), the current eponym for fast food: a simple restaurant where you order at the counter and wait or (if there's a crowd) sit at plastic faux-wood tables until your food is ready. The "QSR" designation is, of course, to avoid the label "fast food," which now makes people think of mass-produced microwaved burgers. McDonald's and Burger King are also considered QSRs, but there the similarity to Zankou ends.

A family-owned chain, Zankou may be one of the few QSRs with an Armeniapedia entry (I didn't know there was an Armeniapedia until I looked up Zankou). The chain has become a Southern California fixture, with a cult following of fans hungry for the spiced chicken, garlic paste, and pickled turnips. I'd previously been to the Burbank and Van Nuys locations, and on our way back from San Diego, we decided to meet a friend at the Anaheim store.

Zankou offers roasted chicken and chicken "tarna," spiced and cooked on a rotating spit like gyro meat. You can get the smaller wrap, which comes with pickled turnips and the delicious garlic paste, or you can get a "tarna plate", which we shared, complete with hummus, tahini sauce, and a couple pitas to make sandwiches if you want. The hummus is creamy and not too garlicky, and the tahini is nice and rich as well. The chicken remains the star attraction, though: tender, perfectly seasoned, and plentiful, it's the kind you keep picking at pieces of even after you're full, just to keep the taste in your mouth. The garlic paste is unique, again not too strong, but with plenty of flavor. And I have a soft spot for the pickled turnips, but they are pretty strong and even I don't usually end up finishing them.

We also had falafels, which are huge and crunchy. You cut these in half or quarters rather than popping the whole thing in your mouth as with some falafel balls or patties. They're almost the size of a pool ball. Mostly bready, not the best falafels I've had, but good nonetheless.

There was an online form where you could tell the Zankou owners where you wanted a new location. I put in San Jose and they said that at the time, that was their leading vote-getter. I can only hope they act on it before too much longer. If you pass through Southern California, you need to visit one at one point just so you can say you did. And pick up a t-shirt while you're at it.


Anonymous said...

i love zankou especially the chicken tarna which can easily feed 2 people with one 9 dollar plate

Magnolia said...

You write very well.