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?
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.
The words of Beck follows:
"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."
2424 W Ball Rd
Anaheim, CA 92804