Tarna plate at Zankou Chicken
|Industry||Casual dining restaurant|
Number of locations
|Los Angeles metropolitan area|
Zankou Chicken is a small, family-owned chain of Armenian and Mediterranean fast casual restaurants within the Los Angeles area. The restaurants are especially known for their spit-roasted chicken, shawarma, falafel, tahini, and a "secret" garlic sauce.
The chain was established within the United States in 1983 by his son, Mardiros Iskenderian, after the family immigrated to Los Angeles, California. After considering opening a dry cleaning business or selling men's suits, Iskenderian recognized a lack of restaurants catering to the growing Mediterranean immigrant population in Los Angeles. This included Armenian and Lebanese compatriots who fled Lebanon during the civil war.
The first restaurant in Los Angeles opened in a section of East Hollywood called Little Armenia  and is located at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Normandie Avenue. The restaurant is especially known for its thick, paste-like garlic sauce, created by Vartkes' wife, Markrid and widely imitated.
In 1991 the family agreed to divide the business when Mardiros wanted to open additional restaurants. The new restaurants would be owned by Mardiros, while the original Sunset and Normandie store would be owned by his parents and two sisters. Vartkes Iskenderian died in 1992.
Since opening, Zankou Chicken has expanded and includes the following locations in the greater Los Angeles area: East Hollywood, West Hollywood, West Los Angeles, Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, Toluca Lake, Van Nuys, Montebello, and Anaheim. (The original location and Montebello locations are not listed on the website; Rita Iskenderian owns the website and doesn't include them.)
On January 14, 2003, after a heated argument, Zankou Chicken owner Mardiros Iskenderian shot and killed his sister, Dzovig Marjik, and his mother Margarit Iskenderian; he then took his own life in a double-murder suicide. It is believed that Iskenderian was in the late stages of colon and brain cancer, which might have affected his mental faculties. The repercussions of this event, and the lasting division of the brand into two family factions, impeded the continuing growth of the business despite the restaurants' popularity. In the California Court of Appeal case Iskenderian v. Iskenderian, Mardiros Iskenderian's widow Rita unsuccessfully sought to attain sole control of the Zankou Chicken trademark.
In 2013, Zankou Chicken was one of the contributors for Green Armenia, which brings attention to environmental problems faced by the people of Armenia.
In popular culture
- The restaurant was mentioned by Beck (rhyming "Zankou chicken" with "ripe for the pickin'") in his song "Debra", from the album Midnite Vultures.
- The music video for Childish Gambino's song "Sober" from his EP Kauai was filmed in the original Hollywood location.
- A Zankou Chicken location is mentioned as a wayfinding point as part of driving directions given in the Saturday Night Live sketch "The Californians" (in "Stuart Has Cancer")
- Zankou Chicken was referenced in Curb Your Enthusiasm, where Larry David referred to it as Palestinian chicken so good "it could end the rift in the Middle East".
- Marti Noxon, who co-produced Buffy the Vampire Slayer, called Zankou Chicken one of her "go-to" take out spots.
- Zankou Chicken is a subject in Rob Delaney's book Mother. Wife. Sister.
- Adam Richman of Man v. Food called Zankou Chicken a "can't miss".
- The Zankou Chicken Murders were featured in the 32nd episode of "My Favorite Murder"
- Thompson, Elise. "Fast Food that Will Still Respect You in the Morning". LAist. Archived from the original on 2016-03-16. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
- Arax, Mark (April 2008). "The Zankou Chicken Murders". Los Angeles Magazine. pp. 124–129, 202–206.
- "Iconic Neighborhood Restaurants: East Hollywood & Little Armenia". KCET. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
- Satzman, Darrell (March 18, 2010). "Zankou Chicken's tragic family rift impedes chain's growth". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-03-18.
- Iskenderian v. Iskenderian, 144 Cal. App. 4th 1162 (2006)
- Sakai, Shuji (February 9, 2011). "Zankou's Garlic Sauce Clone". OC Weekly. Retrieved 2016-04-27.
- "Zankou Chicken | Roasted Chicken, Shawerma, Tarna™, and our legendary Garlic Sauce". Zankou Chicken. Retrieved 2016-04-27.
- "LA EXAMINER: JANUARY 12, 2003 - JANUARY 18, 2003 ARCHIVES". Archived from the original on 2006-02-21.
- Blankstein, Andrew; Michael Krikorian (January 16, 2003). "Restaurant Family's Tragedy: Cancer and stress may be why the operator of Zankou Chicken killed his sister and mother". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-03-18.
- "Green Armenia Inaugural Event a Big Success". Asbarez.com. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
- Deborah Picker, "Preppie Living Wage: Ménage À Garlic Paste", LA Weekly, December 23, 1999.
- Janelle Brown, "Valet Parking? That's So 2000. In Los Angeles, Strip Mall Food Is Way Cool", The New York Times, August 20, 2003.
- Ogilvie, Jessica P. "'Curb Your Enthusiasm' Gives Not Subtle Shout Out to Zankou Chicken". LAist. Archived from the original on 2016-04-07. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
- Gold, Jonathan. "Palestinian Chicken Conflict: Only in Curb Your Enthusiasm or Is It Real?". L.A. Weekly. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
- "TV Producer and Artisanal Grain Guru Marti Noxon Takes THR's Taste Test". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
- "Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage". www.avclub.com. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
- "Follow the locals for the best food on vacation". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
- "My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark - 32 - Just The 32 Of Us". Retrieved 2018-07-30.
- Zankou Chicken Official Site - 9 Locations: Anaheim, Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, Toluca Lake, Valencia, Van Nuys, West Hollywood, W. Los Angeles
- Zankou Chicken Official Site - 3 Locations: Hollywood, Tarzana, Granada Hills