Zankou Chicken is one of LA’s most recognizable restaurants, famous even to those who live outside the city. That’s because Zankou offers quality food at an affordable price, and has built its business around that concept.
In the old days, Zankou occupied a busy street corner in Beirut. The Iskendarian family spent their time cleaning and salting chicken for the lunch and dinner time rush hours. They handed customers orders wrapped in to-go boxes, collected money outside the building and made a good living in the city they loved. Then they brought those family secrets across the pond to Los Angeles.
LA in the early 80s was full of people trying to make it: immigrants, aspiring actors and actresses, writers and artists all appreciated Zankou Chicken. The restaurant made a name for itself offering its garlic sauce, which is a twist on traditional Lebanese “Toum”, for free alongside its platters of chicken and vegetables.
That wasn’t quite the start of Mediterranean food in Los Angeles, but it became a central hub. One of the missing pieces for the Iskendarian family was Middle Eastern food. Today, Glendale and Little Armenia are full of Mediterranean delights, but much of that movement can be traced back to the Hollywood Zankou location.
LA has become obsessed with Zankou in large part thanks to that garlic sauce, which is also the same impetus that drove Zankou’s owners to expand their menu and include more Mediterranean tastes. Tri-tip shawarma and falafel both owe their existence at Zankou to the fact that customers want more to put the garlic sauce onto.