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O.C.’s Best: Roast Chicken
Call it basic, but this staple is the best kind of feel-good food
Whether it’s cooked slowly over open flames on a spit-roast or stuffed with herbs and roasted in the oven to golden perfection, few dishes are as comforting as a simple roast chicken. While it’s hard to beat a home-cooked version, these seven diverse locales in Orange County do right by this ubiquitous classic.
1. Wolfgang Puck Bistro
Perfectly crispy and juicy rotisserie chicken at South Coast Plaza? You bet. The half-chicken, left, perfumed with rosemary, is beautifully golden and each bite yields crackly skin. It’s served with a side of garlic mashed potatoes. Food just doesn’t get more comforting or classic than this. $15. 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, 714-545-5439, wolfgangpuck.com
For decades, major food critics have considered Zankou’s rotisserie chicken one of the best on the planet. With nine locations across Southern California, the fast-casual chain of Armenian and Mideastern-style rotisserie chicken still reigns. The secret? The birds get a simple rub of salt, and the staff constantly adjusts the heat and their placement to ensure even cooking and perfectly moist and flavorful meat, which comes with a side of powerfully pungent and fluffy garlic spread. $10 for a whole chicken; $10 for a half-chicken plate with hummus and salad. 2424 W. Ball Road, Anaheim, 714-229-2060, zankouchicken.com
3 . Chicken Maison
Come lunch, there’s a line out the door at this bustling joint tucked in a shopping center. Rows of chickens glisten and brown in ovens just behind the cash register. Bland bird this ain’t, not when the Spicy Lemon Garlic Chicken comes slathered with a bright paste of red chilis, green onions, garlic, and lemon. The skin remains crisp even under that mix, and the meat is tender. Or try the lemon-basil chicken; it’s fragrant and still has that punch of citrus. $10 for a half-chicken with pita and two sides; $16 to $20 for a whole chicken with sides. 3332 S. Bristol St., Santa Ana, 714-434-0244, chickenmaison.com
4 . Solita
You might not think to order this entree at a contemporary Mexican restaurant, but the oak-roasted chipotle chicken here is a must. The bird is rubbed with chipotle spices and garlic before it’s smoked and slow-roasted on a wood grill. The results are an intensely flavored skin and fall-apart meat that’s perfect for wrapping up in warm, handmade tortillas, beans, and Mexican rice. Don’t forget to douse it with the house-made habanero-and-serrano salsa for extra heat. $15 for a half-chicken; $21 for a whole. 7631 Edinger Ave., Huntington Beach, 714-894-2792, solitatacos.com
5 . Costco
This wholesale giant’s rotisserie chickens are among the best you’ll find in local supermarkets. The birds are consistently fall-off-the-bone-moist, bursting with flavor that penetrates beyond the slightly charred skin. It’s the perfect take-home meal. $5. Locations in Cypress, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Laguna Niguel, Yorba Linda and more; costco.com
6 . Rosine’s Mediterranean Cafe
Practically an Orange County institution, Rosine’s has been beloved for nearly 20 years for its standout rotisserie chicken. The skin is always crunchy and savory, and the meat succulent and juicy. The icing on the cake, er, bird? A divine garlic sauce that’s more of a fluffy and airy garlic butter—the better to coat each bite. $11 for a half-chicken plate. 721 S. Weir Canyon Road, Anaheim Hills, 714-283-5141, rosines.com
7 . King Pollo
Few things go together as well as salsa and rotisserie chicken. Find that delicious combo at King Pollo, where juicy hens are pulled right off the spit and served with sides such as tortillas, salsa, rice, and beans. $7 for a half-chicken combo; $22 for a two-chicken meal with sides. 530 N. State College Blvd., Anaheim, 714-758-1191
Photograph by Priscilla Iezzi
This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue.