Zankou Chicken

Zankou Chicken

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    WARNING: Angry Armenian Alert

    Years ago, a friend turned me on to the Zankou Chicken restaurant in Pasadena, where I discovered the ambrosia from Nirvana that is Toum sauce (the garlic dipping sauce). Oh, and the chicken was pretty good, too. So, naturally, when my wife and I discovered a Zankou in our own neighborhood, I had to share it with her. Before entering the restaurant, I told her about my experience in the Pasadena Zankou, including how good the Toum sauce was—and the chicken wasn’t bad, either—in addition to how standoffish and borderline rude the employees were. As she and I both had experience shopping in local Armenian markets, she was already familiar with the practice of some local merchants of making their non-Armenian customers feel as unwelcome as a binge eater at a buffet without giving them grounds to sue or call in a hit-squad of PC-Police.

    We thought we knew what to expect in our local Zankou, and the guy behind the counter did his best not to disappoint us. The moment we walked in, he looked at us as if we were something scraped out of a bilge tank then left over a heater vent for a few weeks. While taking our order, he appeared putout, as if we had simply ruined his day by coming in to patronize his business (which, incidentally, was completely devoid of other customers at the time—dinner time—which should have warned us). I kept a close eye on the guy, as I suspected he kept throwing knives behind the counter and was just waiting for me to turn my back so he could plant one between my shoulder blades. As I was wearing my windbreaker, I kept my right hand inside the left flap, pretending I was fondling a gun in a holster. Apparently, my deception worked, for we made it out with not only our food but also our lives.

          His initial expression                      When he realized                            What he wanted to do                                                                                      we weren’t hallucinations

    Then came the moment of revelation: All Zankous are not alike! Yes, the Toum sauce was just fine, but even it couldn’t improve on about the worst chicken I have ever had. With properly cooked thighs and legs, I expect the breast meat to be slightly dry, but every part of the bird produced a prodigious thirst that a great lake could not quench. I’ve had sand that was less dry—sand! This was something even a desiccated Egyptian mummy wouldn’t try to gag down. To make things worse, they must have forgot to season the bird, for it had virtually no flavor. I would have found more satisfaction from eating a tortilla filled with Baby Powder.

    This is not Zankou chicken, but used to demonstrate the Mojave’esque nature of the meat


    I would have returned the meal and demanded a refund, but I suspected the guy would be more than reluctant to turn over the cash and—largely but not entirely because I lacked the pistol I pretended to have and throwing knives just aren’t my thing—I wasn’t in the mood to risk my life for the second time in one day.

    Needless to say, I haven’t tried anything else at this Zankou. Why would I? If they could screw up chicken—and chicken is in the restaurant’s name!—should I expect everything else on the menu to be scrumptious? If the place had good food, I would have put up with the temporary mortal terror of entering the restaurant. I might invest in Kevlar, but I would still go if only for the chicken… if only it wasn’t like eating sawdust enchiladas marinated in graphite shavings.

    For Zankou Chicken locations, visit

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