Long Beach Lunch: Chicken Dijon
There are a lot of casual-quickie restaurant chains that have made an entire empire out of serving rotisserie chicken combo plates and assorted comfort-food sides. In Southern California, they seem to be all over the place: Santa Monica's Koo Koo Roo, California Chicken Cafe in the San Fernando Valley, even the lone Kenny Roger's Roasters in the Ontario Mills Mall, places that laud healthy meat options, while simultaneously offering it alongside American staples like mac 'n' cheese and mashed potatoes.
In Long Beach, however, the one such chicken eatery is Chicken Dijon, a South Bay-based (with a location in Irvine) rotisserie and grill that is more Mediterranean influenced than anything else, serving chicken meals laced with garlic sauce and Greek-style sides perfect for a light refuel after a few hours of Christmas shopping.
Tucked into a neutral-colored corner of the Marina Pacifica shopping center (formerly the Wow! Center), Long Beach's Chicken Dijon never seems to get any love. Every time I go in there, I am one of only a few customers and whenever I mention its affordable prices and Greek specialties to someone, they have never heard of it before.
Yet this unsuspecting corporate-looking eatery (the interior could easily be that of a Pick Up Stix or autumn-colored Baja Fresh) smushed between a Barnes and Noble and an AMC Movie Theater complex is one of my choice lunch spots in town, if not for its plentiful free parking than for its stress-free order-at-the-counter-and-we'll-deliver-to-the-number-on-your-stick routine.
Usually, I order the do-it-yourself chicken meal which asks you to choose how much of a chicken you want and two sides to go along with it. But the last time I went, a sign taped to the cash register advertised a $7.99 "chicken and rice plate" and with an offering of all white-meat, Not knowing how filling the plate would be, I also ordered a side of Mediterranean fries, which came first, covered in Parmesan, feta cheese and chopped garlic--loads of it.
In fact, everything I ordered came covered in garlic, either chopped or ground up into Chicken Dijon's homemade garlic sauce, a side of which is served with every meal. Despite being already being topped with garlic, the cheese-fries tasted even better when dipped in this house sauce, which looks like a white dill tartar but tastes more like evaporated garlic cotton candy, leaving little wisps of the pungent flavor that refused to overwhelm.
|Chicken and rice plate|
My mysterious chicken and rice plate was a Long Beach Luncher's generously portioned dream: a full plate of boneless shredded chicken ("with Mediterranean spices") served over a bed of rice with a side salad. Garlic inventory was just as high as it had been on the fries with a helping of the garlic sauce covering the chicken-and-rice mound and another cup of the stuff waiting on the side with some slices of pita bread. I used it all, kissable breath be damned.
Thankful to not have to cut up the chicken or eat meat off a bone, I also found multiple ways to use the tender, shredded chicken from smothering it in the garlic sauce and loading it up on a pita to mashing it into some saffron-style rice pilaf and scooping up forkfuls.
With a slew of affordable salads, sides and traditional Greek sandwiches left to try on the menu, Chicken Dijon is the non-corporate food option that keeps me from shopping at the Long Beach Town Centre. The only thing that could have made my most recent meal better was a bowl of hummus or baba ganoush, something that could thankfully have been remedied with a few bucks and another trip to the register.
Chicken Dijon, 6332 E. Pacific Coast Hwy, Long Beach, (562) 795-0424.