On a recent Wednesday, Zankou’s Chicken was filled with students, professionals and a mother with three children enjoying a variety of Mediterranean foods. This is not a place for quiet contemplation, but a hive of activity as patrons come and go, laugh at jokes or talk business over meals of meat, garlic sauce and pita bread while world music plays in the background.
Shane Seah, biology, said he has been eating at Zankou’s since he was a young boy.
“My dad would bring Zankou’s home since I was three and ever since I’ve been hooked,” Seah said.
His favorite menu item is the tri-tip shawerma wrap, although he does have to chew bubble gum after every meal because of the garlic sauce.
Shift leader Melanie Baghdasarian said a lot of PCC students visit Zankou’s.
“They usually just order the wraps to go,” she said. “But a lot of them ask for extra garlic sauce.”
Zankou’s garlic sauce is so popular that they have a policy about it on their website.
“Customers may receive one extra garlic spread per item they order which includes garlic spread,” the site states.
Baghdasarian said at the Pasadena location, if customers ask for extra, they will get it for no charge. Customers do have the option to order small and large size containers of the sauce for those who just can’t get enough of it.
According to Zankou’s website, the company opened its first store in Lebanon in 1962 and the first one in the U.S. in 1984.
“The mission was simple – to share with the community the delicious family chicken recipe and secret garlic sauce,” the site states.
The rotisserie chicken is the most popular item on the menu, Baghdasarian said. The simple recipe is to add a pinch of salt to the chicken and place it on the rotisserie for twenty to thirty minutes.
Lisa Magill, history, said that was her favorite meal at Zankou’s.
“I have been going here since I started at PCC two-years ago,” she said. “I always order the half-chicken plate.”
Vanessa Ledesma, studio arts, said her boyfriend had introduced her to Zankou’s and was equally in love with it.
“Chicken Tarna wraps are all I ever get,” she said. “It’s very good.”
Not only does Zankou’s attract PCC students as customers, but a handful of students work at Zankou’s as well.
Cashier Yarely Lopez, psychology, said her favorite dish is the kabobs.
Every student interviewed had a different favorite dish making it harder for me to order only one item from the menu to try. In the end, I settled on the chicken Tarna wrap.
A chicken Tarna warp consists of sliced chicken that has been marinated for two days, chopped tomatoes and lots of garlic sauce wrapped in pita bread.
It was very messy and oh so good.
A side dish of purple pickled turnips in beet juice and neon yellow-green chili peppers accompanies every meal. Baghdasarian said a lot of students ask for extra beets and peppers, but since I have a low heat tolerance, the peppers were too spicy for me.
Zankou’s recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. With the long lines and good food, there is a good chance it will last 50 more.