Zankou Chicken

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Glendale branch
Glendale branch

The first Zankou Chicken opened in 1962 in the heart of Beirut, Lebanon by Vartkes Iskenderian and his family. After serving Lebanon's diverse community for 20 years, Vartkes and his son Mardiros Iskenderian sold the business and moved to Los Angeles, California. In 1984, Zankou opened its doors in Hollywood's Little Armenia at the corner of Sunset and Normandie. Centered in the heart of America's motion picture industry, Zankou attracted thousands of aspiring actors, writers, artists, and musicians.

In 1992, Mardiros Iskenderian opened Zankou Chicken in Glendale. The restaurant was heavily crowded on opening day, and the immense success of that branch led him to open further Zankou Chicken restaurants in Van Nuys, Anaheim, and Pasadena. Zankou's legendary garlic sauce and exceptionally fast food still attract new customers every day.

The chain is now split into two different parts of the family, with the Hollywood and Montebello locations owned by one side, and the remainder owned by the other side. They continue to use the same name and logo, as well as much of the same menu.

Quotes about Zankou Chicken

That Zankou is legendary is no doubt. Here are some worthy quotes about it.

Chicken chains have cult followings. Los Angelenos worship Zankou's Armenian chicken and its pungent garlic sauce. -New York Times (Feb 23 2005)
"The best chicken in town at any price: moist, juicy and fragrant." - L.A. Times

Zankou Chicken is also mentioned in the Beck song, Debra.


Burbank Leader, CA Aug 31 2005

Zankou, known for chicken but not decor, hopes to draw in more customers with a stylish new restaurant in Burbank. By Darleene Barrientos, The Leader

BURBANK -- Zankou Chicken restaurants are famous for the tender, roasted chicken and tasty garlic spread they serve, but not so much for the nondescript, cafeteria-like decor.

The Southern California chain, owned by the Iskenderian family of Glendale, is planning to break with its reputation for good food but bad ambience by opening a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant with 27,000 square feet in Burbank. The building will include the chain's first patio seating, and a dome will grace its southeast corner.

The new restaurant is scheduled to be open by November or December and will be the beginning of the chain's move toward more attractive and welcoming eateries.

"This is going to be the staple," said Dikran Iskenderian, a manager and co-owner of Zankou's six restaurants. "This is going to be, God willing, what all of Zankou's future stores will be based [upon]."

Burbank's Zankou is being built from the ground up as part of a strip mall under construction along San Fernando Boulevard just west of Burbank Boulevard. The mall, which is being developed by Dell West Properties, will include a drive-through Starbucks, a Robeks Juice store, a Quizno's sandwich shop, a nail salon and spa, an IndyMac Bank branch and an Italian gelato shop, which will also be owned by the Iskenderian family.

Seven tenants will occupy 13,000 square feet of the 50,000-square-foot lot, said Rafik Khatchaturian, the developer and owner of the property. The Khatchaturian and Iskenderian families have known each other for at least 20 years, but have not worked together until now.

"I went to Italy and was inspired by the Italian architecture," Khatchaturian said of his plans to build the project. "I wanted to create a high-end food court. I think we've been lucky in the implementation of the idea."

Zankou's Burbank restaurant anchors the strip mall's north end. The eatery's owners will employ a variety of consultants to plan the restaurant's paint, lighting, tile and kitchen layout.

"This location -- no one can say anything anymore about the decor," Iskenderian said. "They can't say anymore, 'it's great food, but take it to go.'"

About 60% to 70% of Zankou's customers take their food to go, he said. With its new Burbank restaurant, Iskenderian said he expected that number to drop to 50%. Iskenderian's grandfather, Vartkes Iskenderian, opened Zankou's first store in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1962. Iskenderian's father, Mardiros Iskenderian, immigrated to the United States and opened the first U.S. location in Hollywood in 1984. Subsequent stores opened in Glendale in 1984, in Van Nuys in 1992, in Anaheim in 1996, in Pasadena in 2000 and in West Los Angeles this year.

If Zankou's Burbank restaurant opens as scheduled, it will be the first time the chain has opened two stores in one year, Iskenderian said. Future locations are being considered on Ventura Boulevard near Tarzana, in Beverly Hills and in eastern Santa Monica.

The family might consider going public one day, but franchising the Zankou brand is an unlikely idea, Iskenderian said.

"The food is handmade, and the recipes are from my family," Iskenderian said of Zankou, which is named after a river in Armenia. "We don't want the quality of the food to go down."

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