Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Zankou Chicken - Anaheim

Much has been written about Zankou Chicken. From Chowhound, to the NY Times, everyone, it seems, has raved about this L.A. institution. Even Beck references Zankou in his song, "Debra". And for a while, noshing on Zankou's rotisserie bird and slathering it all over with that garlic paste, seemed like *the* quintessential rite of passage for a Chowhound. Deciphering the garlic paste recipe was next in the path of true Chowhoundhood.

Although most of the fervent enthusiasm has subsided, perhaps because Zankou comfortably transitioned to become an everyday staple of the Chowhound diet, the restaurant still churns out dependably good chicken. And that garlic paste still does its job, fouling up the breaths of many an Angeleno.

Luckily for us in O.C. we have our own solitary branch of Zankou in Anaheim. And for me, in the few years that I held a Disneyland Annual Passport, Zankou food was the default after a food-free day at the park. And man, was it good!

Located a few blocks away from Disneyland, Zankou exists in the part of Anaheim few tourist dare to venture. Unlike that tourist-trappy stretch of Harbor Blvd., you won't find cheesy, faux-Fantasyland facades here. No fake lattice-work fences or painted-on ivy.


And that panhandler at Zankou's door?

He's real.

What's more, after he's amassed enough change, he'll come in for some Zankou chicken himself.

Zankou isn't for the typical Disney tourist. It's too scary for them. Once and again, the Middle Eastern families, working stiffs, and Anaheim police officers who eat here would look up from their chicken and eye the odd group of people with floppy Goofy hats and Mickey Mouse ears. And then they would get back to their chicken, licking those greasy fingers to get every last bit of that garlic paste from underneath their nails.

Oh that garlic paste! Packaged innocently in small Solo plastic cups, it is the reason the city of Gilroy thrives. White, with the appearance and consistency of creamed butter, this robust concoction is meant to be slathered onto your chicken and/or pita bread. The tangy garlic punch will elevate the meat to levels beyond where a normal chicken could go by itself.

Don't get me wrong though. The chicken is as good as a rotisserie bird can get. Basted with the dripping juices of the other chickens that turn above it, the skin of a Zankou chicken is crispy golden brown and infused with intense flavor. I could eat the skin like chips, if Zankou sold it alone.

The meat is lighter in flavor, but perfectly cooked. I'm not a fan of the breast, which can be dry, but the thigh and leg meat is always succulent. You can finally feel like a true carnivore when you've finished and you're left with nothing but the bony carcass. Even then, you'll succumb to the urge of trying to pick out every last bit of meat from that nook of joint you missed.

If you don't want to revert to this primal eating frenzy, Zankou offers pre-disassembled meats in its wraps. The one pictured here is the Chicken Tarna. It's a generous helping of diced, seasoned chicken, tomatoes and smear of that garlic sauce, wrapped around a toasted pita. It'll spare you the greasy fingers, but not the flavors.

Ah yeah, come on. . .
I met you at JC Penny. I think your name tag said "Jenny"!
I cold-step to you with a fresh pack of gum.
Somehow I knew you were looking for some. . .oh no!
Like a fruit that's ripe for the picking,
I wouldn't do you like that Zankou Chicken.

Zankou Chicken
(714) 229-2060
2424 W Ball Rd
Anaheim, CA 92804


At 11:37 AM, Blogger Xericx said...

Nice....never been to the Zankou in OC yet.

Did you just get the chicken by itself? I usually get the combo with the Hummus + pickled veggies + tomatoes...looks weird on a styramfoam plate.

Went to the one in West LA a few weeks ago...its weird that they called the Schwarma "Beef Tri Tip Schwarma", to make it more appealing I guess to the trendy Westsiders.

At 11:43 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

The one in O.C. has the same signage. They call it a "Beef Tri Tip Shawerma" too. I guess it's a chain-wide revamp, because I didn't remember the pretty pictures before either.

I usually get the chicken by itself and a tarna. But the pickled radishes are awesome!

Dang...mouth is watering now.

At 1:04 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...


have you tried Sassoon Chicken in Orange on E. Chapman. I think its pretty close, but Zankous is a little better only because they do more volume and therefore they are turning birds like crazy I think its more consistent.

I like Sassoon because the couple that runs it are the sweetest hardest working people and the fact that this places is so close to my house. Zankou is totally far.

However, like you said in your post; the white meat can be dry. So I think this art of making perfectly juicy chicken is pretty hard and even Zankou may have a hard time every now and then.

You should check out the rotisserie Mexican chicken in my latest blog post. Even the white meat was juicy!

At 1:36 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

I have, in fact, tried Sassoon one night, a few months ago. I recall it was right after I tried Tan Huong before it changed ownership, and yes, the turnover at Sassoon is a problem. My chicken was not very good simply because of the fact that it had been sitting under a heat lamp for too long. I and my friends were the only ones at the joint. It's a shame, because like you said, the couple that runs it were really nice.

BTW, that new place you found looks fabulous!

At 1:50 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...


Do me a favor. If you try the Mexican place, of course get the rotiserie chicken and pupusa with the slaw. But try to get other things that I did not get. There are so many things there and I am curious about them. Its gunna take a group of people to get through them all!

At 4:48 PM, Blogger Daily Gluttony said...

there's a big difference betw ordering the white meat & dark meat chicken items here...i totally agree, the white meat can be dry as hell. coincidentally, everyone i know who has ordered the white meat stuff has never had raving comments about zankou. dark meat here is a much , much better choice. other than that, loooove me some zankou garlic sauce!

At 7:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elmo - I'm tagging you for the Five Favorite Cookbooks meme. I hope you accept!

At 10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great chicken and garlic sauce too at Moonlight Chicken and Pizza on Warner near Brookhurst. Hear they have a place in Anaheim now too.

At 1:17 PM, Blogger Terrie said...

Great blog! I just discovered you and am enjoying your archives.

At Moonlight Pizza and Chicken in Fountain Valley, try the muttabel, which is a deliciously addictive variation on the eggplant dip baba ghanouj.

Moonlight also offers an affordable weekday lunch buffet including their garlic chicken, pizza, hummus and salad.

At 1:28 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Thanks for the tip Terrie!

At 3:29 PM, Blogger BuddingCook said...

at Zankou, i preferred the beef over the chicken. i've also tried sasoon. it's not very busy there. so food takes longer to be delivered to you.

At 7:42 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Their falafel, which I tried for the first time recently, was also awesome!

At 4:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Moonlight Chicken and Pizza is goooooooooooooodddddddd!! They are in Laguna now. Their garlic spread is the ish! SERIOUSLY!

At 5:38 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Thanks for the tip!

At 11:21 PM, Blogger Jessica said...

Thank you so much! The husband and I are headed down for a preview of the Nemo sub ride this weekend - and while we have been known to make random road trips to L.A. *just for Zankou Chicken* we have never even stopped for gas in Anaheim. All I know is the juice bar at the Tiki Room, from 1978. That, and that tourist troughs give me the heebies. Now: where do we go for breakfast?

At 11:26 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Lucky! I don't think I can get in to the Nemo preview. Name didn't get drawn.

Hope you enjoy it! And oh yeah, for breakfast, there's a place called Original Pancake House that I've been wanting to try. Heard it has great breakfasts.


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