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NEIGHBORHOOD EATERY

Char O Chicken's Herbs and Spices Bring Glory to the Humble Bird

August 06, 1992|LEE ROGERS

When Moe Bonakdar set out to open Char O Chicken in Seal Beach, he says he kept two things in mind: Make the menu simple and make it simply the best. That was back in 1983, and public response says he has his priorities straight.

Although charbroiled chicken takeouts abound, Char O Chicken's quality sets it apart from the rest.

Bonakdar, whose earlier ventures included Bull & Bush Pizza in Inglewood and Al Capone's Pizza in Seal Beach and Long Beach, said Char O Chicken uses fresh Zacky or Foster Farms poultry that is delivered daily from Livingston and never frozen. It is butterflied, then cooked on a charbroiler.

"We add a very light amount of herbs and spices like pepper, onion powder, garlic pepper and other things" to the chicken while it is being charbroiled, Bonakdar said. A dose of paprika added while the chicken is on the charbroiler lends a subtle heat to the meat. The end result is chicken that is tender, juicy and full of flavor.

Immediately when the chicken is ready, the customer has a decision to make: lemon butter, garlic butter or lemon-garlic butter. Bonakdar said there is a clear favorite among the basting choices. "Ninety percent of our customers choose lemon-garlic butter," he said.

Like the various sauces, the salsa, rice, beans, coleslaw and guacamole are made fresh on the premises and all without preservatives. The only items on the menu that are not made on the premises are the flour and corn tortillas, which management says are delivered fresh to the restaurant from a company in Walnut every morning.

Char O Chicken has numerous combinations from which to choose, or those who prefer may opt to go a la carte. But for the money, the best bets are the chicken deals. For $1.69, the Lil Char O offers one piece of chicken (choice of drumstick or wing), rice, salsa and a small drink. The Mama Char O costs $2.69 and comes with two pieces of chicken (thigh, drumstick or wing), rice, beans, salsa and a medium drink. The Papa Char O consists of three pieces of chicken (breast, thigh, drumstick or wing), rice, beans, salsa and a large drink--all for $3.69.

The restaurant's best seller, however, is its Family Chicken Deal. For $8.88, you get a whole chicken, cut up into eight pieces, with rice, beans, salsa and tortillas.

For those who prefer their chicken served differently, Char O Chicken offers a chicken taco or burrito, made using the same tasty charbroiled meat.

The taco, which costs $1.99, is made using either a corn or flour tortilla. It is filled with shredded chicken, guacamole, tomato, cilantro and lettuce, and is served with salsa. The burrito, at $3.69, is an extra-large flour tortilla stuffed with shredded chicken, rice, beans, tomato, cilantro and lettuce. It is served with sour cream, and burrito sauce on the side.

Aside from rice and beans, Char O Chicken also offers corn on the cob and potato salad as side dishes.

The restaurant offers delivery service to locations within a 10-minute drive. There is a 90-cent charge and a $7 minimum on delivery orders.

Char O Chicken recently opened a second location in Costa Mesa. It is a larger and more upscale version of the Seal Beach restaurant, but only seats about a dozen people. The Seal Beach restaurant seats about 20. Both locations offer indoor and patio seating.

Bonakdar said he has plans to open five more franchises over the next two years.

Char O Chicken, 333 Main St., Seal Beach. (310) 594-0909. Also, 401 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa. (714) 722-8400. Both are open daily, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

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