15 Things You Didn't Know About Zankou Chicken

The important thing you already know about Zankou Chicken is the most important: it’s probably the most delicious, easy-on-your-wallet rotisserie chicken you’ve ever had. But there's lots more behind that juicy chicken with the crispy skin.

Zankou Chicken

1. Zankou originally didn't have "chicken" in its name

And it was opened strictly as a take-out joint in Beirut in 1962. Its first Los Angeles location at Sunset and Normandie opened in 1983 after the Iskenderian family emigrated, escaping from a landlord-tenant dispute gone violent in which co-founder Mardiros Iskenderian was shot 16 times with an AK-47... AND SURVIVED.

2. It's named after a river in Armenia


Zankou Chicken

3. People really, really want to know how to reproduce the secret recipe garlic sauce

Like. Really. Do a simple search on the Internets, you can find a c-load of DIY recipe attempts. The one thing we do know is in it? Garlic straight from Gilroy, CA.

4. The sauce is totally prepared raw


Flickr/Scott Beale

5. Beck loves Zankou Chicken

So much that he gives it a sort-of surreal shout out in the Midnight Vultures track "Debra."

6. The Palestinian chicken place on Curb Your Enthusiasm? Based on Zankou.

In that episode, the famed chicken is proposed as a prop for peace in the Middle East ("They should send their chicken over to Israel"), and Larry comes to the epiphany that the restaurant is a great place for Jews to cheat on their spouses. LOL Larry. L. O. L.

Zankou Chicken

7. There's a huge, HUGE, longstanding rift in the founding Iskenderian family

Literally, it involves a murder-suicide over who were the rightful heirs to the fortune as well as who owned the Zankou trademark. Whoa.

8. There are 12 locations total, but they're not all the same.

Eight of 12 Zankou restaurants are owned and operated by four Iskenderian brothers -- Dikran, Steve, Ara, and Vartkes -- and their mother. The other Zankous are owned by the Iskenderians’ cousins, and they don’t do business together. (See: #7.)

Zankou Chicken

9. Zankou only closes one day a year -- April 24th, the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

Christmas, though? Get that chicken.

10. Like In-N-Out, there are no freezers in any Zankou locations

The chicken is all processed and marinated on-premises, the pita bread is fresh-baked every morning, and the sauces are made fresh in Zankou's commissary.

Zankou Chicken

11. Zankou's got a secret menu item

Order the Fele 3 for a falafel wrap made with three falafels instead of the two normally included. You're gonna do this literally every time now.

12. If you order "meat in foil," you'll get your protein wrapped up

Keeping it warm and not cross-contaminated with your sides. That said... a perfect bite always includes some salad, rice, and garlic sauce.


13. Even though there's no Zankou there, it feeds 50 homeless people a week in Ontario

Zankou also pays 50% of the rent for a church that helps homeless people and at-risk kids. What'd YOU do today?

14. Chicken Tarna is a registered trademark exclusive to Zankou

Tarna means "to turn" in Armenian. Fact!

Zankou Chicken

15. Despite its deliciousness, the chicken is never marinated -- just perfectly rotisseried

Seriously, we're gonna stop, 'cause you're clearly out the door to get some already.

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Esther Tseng is a freelance food and drink writer with penchants for cats and snowboarding. She blogs at e*starLA, Tweets at @estarla, and instagrams at @estarla.

This story was originally published on 3/16/2015.