Pioneer Chicken Looks to Reveal Their K-Town Roots


I didn’t grow up eating fried chicken in California, so the nostalgia factor of the Pioneer Chicken on Olympic and San Vicente is a little lost on me.  I don’t have any fond memories of eating the grease bomb that is Pioneer as a child, nor did I ever go through the shock of discovering that my local Pioneer had been replaced by a Popeyes, or feel any sadness when the original Echo Park location closed a few years ago.  And even though the location on Olympic is one of only 3 locations left (and the only within Midtown Lunch’ing boundaries), there are some who claim that it doesn’t taste the same as the original locations.  It’s not a surprise considering that the actual chain itself hasn’t really existed since the 90s, and the remaining franchises are all owned and operated independently.

But none of that really mattered when Lunch’er Garrett recommended Pioneer as one of his favorite places to eat lunch in Mid City.   I had driven by that kitschy chuck wagon sign so many times, trying to think of a good excuse to stuff my face with fried chicken that couldn’t possible be as good as Honey’s Kettle, or Roscoe’s, or even, ironically, Popeye’s. (I freakin love Popeye’s.) Garrett’s rec was just the excuse I was looking for, and now that I’ve been I can think of 5 amazing reasons I’ll be back to Pioneer.  (And one of them involves Korean fermented soy bean soup.)


REASONS #1 & 2. The chicken & biscuits. Pioneer might not be the best fried chicken in the city, but it’s solid at worst.  It’s not quite the spicy skin fest that Popeye’s is, and does’t have that crunch like extra crispy KFC or Honey’s Kettle.  But the batter they use is tasty enough, and the chicken is remarkably moist for such a run down looking old chain.  The chicken alone might not be worth getting super excited for… but the biscuits are pretty excellent- provided you like your biscuits gigantic, fluffy, and covered in a sheen of honey.  Still not excited?  Well then take a look at this…


REASON #3. Ladies and gentleman, what you are looking at are SWEET POTATO TATER TOTS!  I shit you not.  Are they any good?  Who cares?  They’re SWEET POTATO TATER TOTS!  Apparently they’ll toss some kind of glaze on these things too, if you ask.


REASON #4. A serve yourself Orange Bang fountain.  I’ll let this one sink in too.  The lunch specials at Pioneer are $6-7, and come with two pieces of chicken, a biscuit, any side dish and a drink, and that drink can be orange bang, or pina colada, or horchata.  And when you’re done… free refills!  Gotta love it.


REASON #5. Korean Food!?  Yup.  Here’s the biggest change at Pioneer  since… well… who knows when. Last week they started serving Korean food lunch specials. The day I was there it was kalbi w/ rice and steamed vegetables, topped with some kind of sweet Korean tasting red pepper paste sauce.  The meat itself was cheap (the special was just under $8) and not particularly good, but the marinade was sweet and super tasty.  And the rice was made from like 7 different kinds of grains.  The young Korean chef came out of the kitchen to ask if we liked the new specials, and to let us know that he hopes to introduce a homemade cucumber kimchi in the coming weeks, as well as all sorts of different Korean specials to keep things fresh and draw some new customers in.  And that’s when he dropped this little nugget… his mom cooks (slash owns?) Olympic Cheonggukjang, the Korean stinky tofu soup specialist that Jonathan Gold wrote about last year.


You know what’s more L.A. than the original Pioneer Chicken locations? A Pioneer Chicken that serves chicken and biscuits alongside Korean food and sweet potato tater tots, with horchata and orange bang to drink. I may not have been sad when the Pioneer Chicken in Echo Park closed, but I’ll be sad if and when this one closes.

Pioneer Chicken is dead. Long live Pioneer Chicken!

Pioneer Chicken, 5970 W Olympic Blvd (just East of San Vicente). 323-954-0454



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