Rotisserie chicken is one of those seemingly simple foods that is difficult to execute well. Roasting a bird so that the fatty, flavor-laden skin becomes crispy but the breast meat remains juicy is one of the home cook’s great challenges. Which is just one of the things that makes the swirling brown birds of rotisserie chicken specialists immensely appealing. But what else is it about these rotisserie chicken experts that gives many of these eateries a cultlike following? The pungent sauces? The alluring side dishes? Or is it the succulent meat itself? When a browned and evenly roasted rotisserie chicken is readily and affordably available at any number of grocery stores — from the fancy herb-dressed varieties at Gelson’s to the plump, budget-friendly birds available at Costco — the rotisserie eateries that dot the Los Angeles landscape offer something above and beyond what’s convenient on a grocery run.
L.A.’s rotisserie chicken restaurants — chain or stand-alone — may vary when it comes to rotisserie-friendly accompaniments. In some cases, it is the sauces and sides that cultivate a following. But all are alike in their devotion to achieving that ideal balance of crispy, flavorful skin and succulent meat. Satisfying both chicken camps — fans of dark meat and white meat — makes the chicken at these eateries stand apart from their grocery store–bought cousins, and reassures diners that the chicken is as fresh off the rotisserie as possible.
California Chicken Cafe
There’s a decidedly fresh California vibe on the menu at CCC, with appealing additions such as generous helpings of avocado and a feta cheese that’s the ideal balance between creamy and crumbly. But this much-loved SoCal chain could easily add another C to its moniker — contemporary. Notable are the modern interiors and exteriors of many of the recently revamped restaurants — featuring design-centric touches such as macrame wall hangings, ombre color schemes, original works from local artists and highly Instagrammable murals. Since its first location opened in 1991, this eatery has history, but is also very firmly placed in the now. But above and beyond being on trend, CCC is on point with some of the most flawlessly cooked rotisserie chicken around. The quarter chicken dark meat right off the rotisserie is one of the freshest and finest cooked birds in town. Think crispy-skinned, succulent, flavorful and generously portioned. A cleverly designed build-your-own salad menu is great for those who don’t adore the on-the-bone aspect of rotisserie chicken, as are the extensive menu’s many wraps and sides. Another modern aspect here is the menu’s many customizable options, ideal for the specific dietary proclivities of diners today. Dark meat fans, try the Country Half Chicken Dark when available — it is essentially a whole chicken with the breast meat and wings removed, and the tail and the oysters left intact, served with a side of gravy.
Multiple locations. califchickencafe.com.
Birds of Hollywood
This restaurant’s Franklin Village location below that famed sign makes this popular neighborhood spot something of an L.A. landmark. It's as easy to envisage local friends meeting up to grab a booth, order a few rounds of drinks and nibble on some rotisserie as it is to picture a solo diner stopping by to watch the game on one of the bar’s TV screens while wolfing down half a bird. Devouring half a rotisserie chicken here is a simple and satisfying endeavor. The succulent dark meat requires no sauces if you love that herb-laden chicken flavor, and the white meat is on the juicier side. Both can be augmented with an impressive selection of condiments, including Thai sweet chili, zesty ranch, Buffalo wing sauce or a particularly flavorful artichoke-garlic aioli. For diners with dogs, Birds offers a $2 serving of chicken especially for any pooches joining their owners for sidewalk dining.
5925 Franklin Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 465-0175, birdshollywood.com.
Pollo a la Brasa
Jonathan Gold raved about the wood-fired wonders here in L.A. Weekly back in 2011, and the logs stacked in the parking lot have continued to steadily stoke the wood-fired rotisserie ovens at Pollo a la Brasa. The rotisserie chicken is truly superb: garlicky, with a distinctly wood-fired flavor on the browned skin, and tender juicy meat that falls off the bone. Sides are limited to Peruvian favorites such as beans and rice, salad or their french fries, slender and small with some skin still on. But what regulars rave about in addition to the expertly cooked chicken is the vibrant green aji sauce, which adds a delightful freshness and heat to the chicken. It is often hard to secure a table at Pollo a la Brasa, but the chicken is so good that you won’t mind eating it sitting on the curb or in your parked car, napkins in your lap. Those not afraid of a little heat, request an extra tub of aji sauce.
764 Western Ave., Koreatown; (213) 387-1531.
Reddi Chick at Brentwood Country Mart
This beloved institution has been serving up rotisserie chicken and french fries out of the sprawling red barn that is the Brentwood Country Mart since 1979. If arriving at this historic shopping destination isn’t enough to make you feel you’ve traveled back in time, the menu at this food stand will do it. A simple paper basket of what they dub “BBQ” chicken, served with generously seasoned fries and a side of BBQ sauce, feels like something you’d grab at a roadside shack anywhere but Brentwood. The charcoal-fired rotisserie is visible, reminding diners how fresh these roasted birds are.
225 26th St., Santa Monica; (310) 393-5238, brentwoodcountrymart.com.
This is a simple, pared-back rotisserie chicken eatery, with a selection of Middle Eastern sides, condiments and entree options that makes comparisons with Zankou inevitable. Some fans claim that Sevan’s chicken is superior to that of its renowned competitor. The chicken here comes out fast and flavorful, with super crispy skin and impressively juicy breast meat. Dark and white meat alike can be augmented with garlic sauce, albeit one not quite as pungent as Zankou's; the moutabal eggplant dip is superbly smoky and creamy.
Multiple locations. sevanchicken.com.
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This Eagle Rock restaurant’s chef-driven take on rotisserie offers distinctively flavored birds, such as a lemon and lavender or a Jamaican jerked chicken. The wild lavender and lemon rubbed bird, also flavored with thyme and herbs, is delicious and the flavor infuses the meat, not merely the crispy, expertly blackened skin. The menu here is much more extensive than rotisserie chicken and sides, featuring an equally chef-driven selection of seasonal meats, salads and side dishes. But the chicken selections are worthy of a visit, and an extensive selection of sauces — spring onion compote, harissa chile paste, honey herb gremolata and garlic pepper aioli, to name a few — enable diners to vary their meal as desired. The dine-in option offers refreshingly attentive service and is ideal for those keen to enjoy a refreshing cider, beer or glass of wine with their meal.
2146 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock; (323) 274-3008, turningfire.com.
Zankou’s renowned chicken is something of an institution that has become part of popular culture, mentioned in everything from "Curb Your Enthusiasm" episodes to Beck lyrics. Zankou’s chicken was even dubbed “legendary” by The New York Times. With roots in Beirut, Lebanon, this family-run business opened in Hollywood back in 1984, and now has eight locations across the city — though there was tragedy along the way. The quarter-chicken dark meat plate is a great way to experience the rotisserie expertise — the meat is juicy and the skin deliciously crispy, just as it should be. White meat fans occasionally note the breast meat can be on the drier side, but Zankou's much talked-about garlic sauce tends to help with that, as does the assortment of largely Middle Eastern sides and salads.
Multiple locations. (310) 444-0550, zankouchicken.com.