After a decade, I finally tried Pioneer Chicken again. I used to go quite often when I was in elementary school and lived around Melrose and Vine, and there was one on the corner where Popeye’s is now (next to Mario’s Peruvian). I also went to the one on Fairfax and Olympic a few times as well. But I remember my last few visits being very mediocre, and that was my high school palate talking. So it never came to mind for me to go back and give it another shot.
However, I was craving some fried chicken on a random weeknight, and Pioneer came to mind. It’s not too far from my work, so I hopped in the Hei-mobile (my busted 1996 Toyota Camry) and headed east on Olympic. As I approached the restaurant, everything looked familiar again – until I looked at the menu. The usual fried chicken and typical choices of sides are still there, but menu is much expanded. There are other fried goodies like fish, oysters, and even soft shell crab. I chatted with the new owner a bit – a really nice Korean guy who assured me that the fried chicken was better than ever.
On that assurance, I decided to get a family meal, the one with eight pieces and three sides. Went conventional with two of the sides in the forms of mashed potatoes and coleslaw. Those were just okay. The third side I got was the fried okra. They used the same batter as the chicken – really good. The okra still had some of that sliminess, but that batter worked very well. As for the chicken: I wished I had it there on the spot, because by the time I took it back to the office (and home later) it was a little cold and soggy since I was in traffic. Also, the batter was a bit heavy on some of the pieces in my opinion. But still some of the best I’ve had in a long time. Then again, I’ve only had the likes of KFC in recent years.
I’m glad I gave Pioneer another shot, and from now on I’ll go there whenever I have a fried chicken craving. But I’ll probably need to have it there at the restaurant, to give it an accurate assessment. It’s too bad they close so early (at 7pm) or else I would’ve been back much sooner.
Chris Hei grade: B
5970 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036