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.
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.