I've driven past the Pioneer Chicken on Sunset for years and never stopped by... until this week (last week of April 2005). Why didn't I stop? I was usually on my way to someplace else, and pulling off Sunset there is a pain. But this time I was meeting somebody at the Good Luck Bar and was hungry, so voila.
It looks semi-inviting from the outside, but each time it never really registered until the building was sliding past my door at 35 mph. My curiosity was piqued with a quick glimpse in the rearview as I sped off to whereever I was going.
Yeah it's run down, but that was part of the mystery. Hand painted "special" signs in the windows, opaque ball lights set on posts in the tiny dining area, and faux wood paneling all scream "home cooking." You know, the kind of place where behind the counter a fat woman in a hairnet with a cigarette dangling from her lips plops glop onto your plate with a ladle... and it's better than Mom could have made. Okay, in my case my mother didn't do much cooking, and for good reason, so I don't have a high benchmark... but you know what I mean.
The menu is varied. While chicken dominates (2 piece, 3 piece, 1/2 chicken or whole chicken meals)... you can even see three or four turning on spits in a heater... they've also got hamburgers and fish. Now, I've learned through past experience that when you walk into a place with one food type in the name, you order that product. Anything else on the menu will be wilted or freezer-burned, or just plain mishandled. So I got chicken planks, with two sides.
I have to admit, as much as I've cursed McDonald's, Burger King, and KFC over the years for serving junk (even though I've still gone, repeatedly... I'm no snob), they've all got pretty decent chicken planks full of meat. I was hoping for the same quality, if not better. Afterall, this *is* Pioneer Chicken, right? What I got were little ropes of dessicated... was it white or dark? I couldn't tell... meat safely encased in a thick layer of almost-burned batter.
Wondering if I was the only one doing poorly with my meal I looked around the room. No one seemed especially engrossed or enlivened by their food. If the customers weren't looking bored and non-plussed, it was because they were talking to somebody, not because they were enjoying a good meal. None of the conversations were about the food; they were all about life "on the outside." Yes, I was starting to think of this joint as a 'gastronomic prison.'
So I walked out, determined never to go again and desperate to erase the memory so that I could drive by in the future and think "Hey, that place looks homey and okay. Maybe I should stop in."
I will say this: the staff was friendly, the sides were good (if tiny)... i got coleslaw and spicy rice... and the place was meticulously clean. If you're starving, you can do worse.