Since the early 1980s, Zankou Chicken has dished out its tender rotisserie chicken, pungent toum (garlic sauce), and tri-tip shawarma to millions, but the newest location at the corner of Lakewood Boulevard and Willow Street will be the brand’s first foray into Long Beach.
The brand has had a cult following for decades, a significant portion of which has been Middle Easterners searching for a taste of home. But Zankou has seen some nods in pop culture, as well—a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode shows Larry eating repeatedly at a Palestinian chicken restaurant where employees wear bright yellow shirts, a likely reference to Zankou’s employee uniforms, and musician Beck references the restaurant in his song “Debra.”
The opening of the Long Beach location fills the geographical gap between the chain’s multiple L.A. locations and its few Orange County locations.
“Long Beach has been on our minds for awhile,” Zankou Chicken Vice President of Operations Vartkes Iskenderian said. “The city has an incredible energy.”
The decision to expand here came after years of asking customers where they should open next, and with Long Beach holding the second largest population in L.A. County, it seemed like an obvious choice. For a city that has established full-service Middle Eastern restaurants like Ammatoli or Open Sesame, Zankou hopes to offer something different.
“It’s Lebanese fast-causal,” Iskenderian said. “It’s healthy, but you feel good while eating it and after.”
And while service may be fast, the restaurant prides itself on its food being “made from scratch”—meaning no freezers at their restaurants, and no canned products, either.
If you’re eating their shawarma, you know a whole chicken was carved and marinated by hand with high-quality spices, and each layer was stacked on the skewer in small batches, Iskenderian said. The same goes for the hummus, which is made from dried chickpeas that are soaked for hours before being boiled until tender, a process that some restaurants could shortcut by using canned chickpeas.
“We’ve done a lot of research on what makes us different,” Iskenderian said. “It’s those small details.”
Customers can order a whole rotisserie chicken, falafel plates or sandwiches, kabobs, and traditional sides like tabbouleh, mutabbal (roasted eggplant dip with tahini) and hummus. Baklava will also be available for a sweet treat.
The Long Beach location will be just under 2,000 square feet with a 400-square-foot patio space for outdoor dining. Its interior was designed by Tag Front, a Los Angeles-based architecture company that recently worked on the Northridge Porto’s Bakery location, Iskenderian said.
While the grand opening was originally anticipated to be around June, without any further delays, the location’s opening is now set for mid-July.
The Long Beach location is under the management of the Iskenderian family, which lists the locations they own and operate on their website. Other locations in L.A., including a newly opened Thousand Oaks location, are operated separately by Iskenderian’s cousins and can be found here.