[ Currently Eating: Neat Macaroni Egg Salad ]
As promised earlier, I’m finally getting around to reviewing local area eateries near where I live. As you can imagine, besides reviewing fast food places and “quick sit down” places there aren’t too many chances to review actually restaurants since I try not to eat out too often. That is Cheap Eats Rule #1: avoid eating out when you can!
But anyhow, the other day I happened to be in Pasadena (for the Pasadena City College flea market) and decided to try out an old favorite of mine: Zankou Chicken. You might have heard of this Southern California fave without even knowing it, since Beck sings about it in his song “Debra” (off of the Midnight Vultures CD. Hey, if it’s good enough for Beck…
The first Zankou Chicken was actually opened in Beirut, Lebanon (1962). The owners, the Iskenerian family, then moved to L.A. and opened up the first American Zankou in Hollywood. In the early 90′s, they branched out into heavily Middle-Eastern influenced Glendale, CA and eventually spread to Pasadena, Anaheim, West L.A. and Van Nuys and will be opening in Burbank soon.
There are a lot of strong opinions about Zankou Chicken on either side of the “like-it, hate-it” camps. Some people say it’s the best roast chicken they’ve had while others say they have had better elsewhere, and for cheaper. They have a pretty famous strong garlic paste sauce that has always been a hit. Besides the classic rotisserie chicken you can also get plates which include the garbanzo bean and tahini based hommus (or hummus), pita bread, chopped tomato and these crazy purple-pink marinated turnip pieces.
Some of the more unconventional items on the menu are Shawerma (Marinated beef from a spit), Tarna (Marinated spiced chicken from a spit), Falafels (Fried mixture of Garbanzo, Fava beans, and split peas), and Mutabbal (Eggplant mixed with garlic and sesame)
I’ve always been somewhat split down the middle about the restaurant. I’ve certainly had better tasting Falafel wraps and Shawerma plates elsewhere, but the roast chicken was always really good. Crispy skin and not dry, even for the 1/4 white meat plate. I think the kicker that kept me coming back was the price, which was fairly cheap. The good quality Roasted Chicken Wrap with garlic paste for about $2 was excellent.
But this past time I went, I saw that nearly all the prices have been raised. A chicken wrap is now $3.29 and a 1/4 dark meat chicken plate is now $4.98. This is no longer Cheap Eats. They got a new glitzy looking menu lightboard, but I would have rather had the old boring menu if it meant cheaper prices. In some part, the price hike was overdue. I just can’t get used to inflation.
But I expected that the quality of the food would at least remain the same. Instead, the order of roasted chicken had crisp skin, but it was so salty that I almost had to discard it. And the crispy skin is almost the main reason I used to get it! The meat was just OK, but I had gotten the dark plate. I heard some people who got the white meat chicken plate complaining about it being dry. The chicken wraps were about the same, but it’s no longer very economical to get two of them which is what I used to often do. My wallet didn’t have the heart to divulge any more money to try and see how the Falafel fared.
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