Koo Koo Roo


To the surprise of no one who has followed the chain’s decline in recent years, the last Koo Koo Roo — the one in Santa Monica — is gone. The Luby’s company, which acquired Koo Koo Roo and Fuddrucker’s in 2010, has turned the last location into a Fuddrucker’s…an ironic finish since the operating premise of Koo Koo Roo, once upon a time, was to offer an alternative the traditional burger and fries fare.

Koo Koo Roo started in Los Angeles in 1988 when two brothers, Ray and Mike Badalian opened their first location and before long, their second. The one I went to was in a little strip mall at the corner of Beverly Boulevard and Orlando Avenue, a few blocks east of La Cienega. Before the mall was built, the land housed a Roy Rogers Roast Beef Sandwich stand and then a Golden Bird Fried Chicken shop. Another Koo Koo Roo was located in Koreatown.

The night of the Academy Awards in 1990, Kenneth Berg, a semi-retired real estate broker, passed by and noticed the long line of customers at the Beverly/Orlando location. He decided to stop in and get a “to go” order to eat while watching the Oscars and he was impressed with what he later described as “…the best chicken I ever had in my life.” He soon met the Badalian brothers, invested in their business and later bought them out. He not only liked the chicken but the whole concept of healthy “fast food.”

The story of Koo Koo Roo became one of ups and downs. New stores opened. Other stores closed. Berg’s staff added an expanded menu that included freshly-carved turkey and he renamed the chain Koo Koo Roo California Kitchens. Later, he purchased a controlling interest in the Arrosto Coffee chain and opened coffee bars within his Koo Koo Roos.

It seemed like every few months, Koo Koo Roo was opening more stores and closing others while experimenting with new menu items. The folks who loved Koo Koo Roo (I was one) really loved it but there never seemed to be enough of them. Eventually, Berg’s company sold out to the Fuddrucker’s people and though they added their burgers to most outlets, they didn’t reverse the company’s fortunes…and finally that last one closed.

I miss them. I liked their signature chicken breast. I liked their turkey. I thought their macaroni and cheese was wonderful. But clearly, not everyone liked Koo Koo Roo as much as I did.

89 Responses to Koo Koo Roo

  • Eileen says:

    Loved Koo Koo Roo. I used to go to the one at the corner of Beverly Blvd. and Larchmont. My favorite was either the Chinese Chicjen Salad which you’d get to watch being tossed in front of you or their Turkey Dinner. I once sat down only to look up and see Marlon Wayans eating his dinner.

  • Laurie Briggs says:

    I loved KKR’s. I always went to the one in Brentwood. Their Chicken Breast and Giant sweet potato, and oh that creamed spinach was to die for. Damn it. Bring it back!

  • Erika says:

    I used to work at the Pasadena location! OMG I miss that time in my life. Best food ever and crew. I wish they would bring it back. Our manager would make us study the menu and we always had to dress sharp. The memories. Thank you for reminiscing on KKR =)

  • Matt says:

    I used to go to the Koo Koo Roo’s in Burbank and Toluca Lake. I still think about their macaroni & cheese sometimes.

  • Scott C. says:

    I was the District Manager for San Diego and Orange County until 2002 (Del Mar, Mission Valley, Tustin Marketplace, Jamboree, El Toro, Costa Mesa, Alton Pkwy and a couple more) . None of us knew the recipe for the basting sauce, but the chicken was juicy because it was marinated for at least 24 hours in lemon juice and salt and massaged. It didn’t go out of business because of product quality, 2 bankers should not try to run restaurants. Poor business decisions such as installing 30 to 50 $300 Italian blown glass pendant lights. Most of us felt the company was a vanity piece for them to show off to their wealthy friends. Fuddruckers was the death knell.

  • Lynn says:

    I absolutely loved Koo Koo Roo that chicken wad amazing with the garlic rossyed potatoes and cream spinach or tge chicken ceasat salad. I wish i had a recipe for onetgat chicken.

  • Hans B says:

    I remember eating Koo Koo Roo at least twice a week at the Costa Mesa location on 17th Street, I think. There was one in Irvine on Jamboree that I used to hit, too. Best chicken ever hands down. I’d get the double chicken breast plate with sides of butternut squash and lentil salad. Very healthy and delicious. I can’t believe they are closed down.

    I do have the copycat recipe found online and just made it tonight. It was good, but not nearly the same. Then again, it’s my first time making it so I’ll continue to practice until I can nail it every time.

  • Michael Rodgers says:

    Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur has a copycat recipe for the chicken marinade and baste. I never had the real thing, so I can’t vouch for Wilbur’s recipe, but I will say this: damn good chicken! I’ve made it for friends several times and they say it’s the best grilled chicken they’ve ever had.

    I’m sure you could google it, or pay Mr. Wilbur $.79 cents for access…

  • Brenda Boschee says:

    I loved Koo Koo Roo. I have been trying forever to remember the name and I just did today for some reason. I lived in Beverly Hills and I used to go to the one I think on Beverly? Wherever it was it was fantastic. I wish they would bring it back! Loved the turkey, it is the only time that I would eat turkey other than on Thanksgiving LOL.

  • Wayne P. says:

    I miss koo koo roo. I went there at least once a week when I lived in SoCal. They were the only restaurant that served Turkey Legs. They were healthy and I sure do miss them and wish they would come back as a national chain.

  • Angela says:

    Oh Em Gee. Thank you so much for this blog! I have been racking my brain for two days trying to figure out the name of this amazing chicken gem. Yes, this was the first restaurant I can remember to offer healthy fast food. I went there after church every Sunday at the one in Studio City. There was this funny gay dude who always hooked me up with sides. They were definitely the first of its kind. I LOVED Koo Koo Roo!

  • natasha says:

    I used to go to koo koo roo at least two or three times a week growing up. specifically the beverly hills, studio city, west hollywood, and larchmont locations. it was so convenient for my family, as my mother was a single working professional and I spent a lot of time in the care of young nannies as well. the takeout was had at every charades night with my childhood best friend, the mac and cheese i used to refer to as “cheesy goodness” and the bread “fluffy goodness” and i even delighted at the creamed spinach, mashed potatoes, and of course, the rotisserie chicken. I was, (and still am), a very picky eater and so people used to have to tell me chicken was from koo koo roo for me to eat it….anyway i’m feeling very sad now thinking about this and how its not coming back…my mother bought stock even. rip. switched to el pollo loco after that but it was never the same, or as good.

  • Mark says:

    I tried Koo Koo Roo in Pasadena on Lake Avenue back in 2003. Terrible. Uggh! I would walk past that place off and on between 2003 and 2007 and shudder.

  • steve says:

    personally I think berg saw a good thing and wanted to ruin it by you might say watering down the best chicken he ever tasted by adding other things to the menu but the chicken as it was was the seller and he should have kept it as it was adding the coffee was the only good idea perhaps. either way I am sure he sabotage the work of the two brothers who knew how to deal in food making and not real estate as people go to building structures to eat not real estate. the only hope of koo koo roo is to invest back in the brothers to make a good product and for them not to get enamoured by quick cash allure. SP

  • David says:

    I actually worked for Mr. Berg in his New Jersey’s real estate business. I was in the IT Department. I would travel to the Koo Koo Roo Restaurant in Atlantic City’s Taj Mahal Casino to service their computers. This was first encounter with Koo Koo Roo. The chicken was great… It was a whole experience in skinless rotisserie chicken. There was no twisting of my arm to take the 2-Hour ride to AC’s Koo Koo Roo Restaurant. Even now when I watch the Seinfeld episode of “Kenny Roger’s Chicken” I think about Koo Koo Roo. If I could just get my hands on those recipes. Mmmmm

  • frank says:

    when this opened in bayside, queens, nyc- it was amazing! loved it from the day it opened until they day it closed. which wasn’t very long unfortunately:)

  • David says:

    Well, I would love it if someone who knows it would post the recipe for their chicken and also the hot potatoes (simple, but well executed).

  • ELAHE MADANI says:






  • Charles Irving says:

    I loved this place healthy fast food !!

  • Torc says:

    I worked for the KKR in Arcadia, CA in the late 99’s and loved their food and how it was made. 99% of it was made from scratch and done so daily. Their Mac and cheese was power but once you added gallons of milk and pounds of butter, it kicked ass!

    A fond memory was standing around a box of fresh green beans and chatting while we snapped away (used to be a annoyance when I was kid and mom made me do it.)

    I have, to this day, raved about the food and it is sad to hear that they are no more. I remembered the recipe for their signature seasoning and just made a batch this morning, which prompted my Google search that lead me here.

  • Motherfucker says:

    I miss Koo Koo roo can anyone tell if the Luby’s company will ever open it again the Signature Chicken breast, stuffing, Mac and cheese, and mashed potatoes to me was the best. And for dessert the snickerdoodle cookies and Rice Krispie treats were amazingly delicous hopefully they will open up again please respond if you miss Koo Koo Roo cause this joint had the best chicken and thanksgiving meals

  • Jerry D. Wall says:

    I had a Koo Koo Roo behind the Equitable building (across the street from the old Ambassador Hotel). I was forever bringing home the their takeout. It was skinless grilled chicken, eggplant salad, and flat bread. I thought it odd that the decor was American Southwest but the food had a Mid Eastern flavor. That one closed but later on there was one in Burbank. A whole different menu and not really as good as the one I patronized on 6th street in LA.

  • Jayjay says:

    I miss kookooroo! Their chicken sandwich was bomb.
    To Luis Hernandez do you cater? Would love some chicken sandwiches for a party !

  • Tannaz Pourat says:

    I will open a bunch of Koo Koo Roo locations myself because I really miss
    this place there thanksgiving dinner was bomb and for dessert the snickerdoodle cookies were so good

  • Tannaz Pourat says:

    Koo Koo Roo is the best Restaurant ever

  • Sina Khodadadi says:

    Koo Koo Roo was my favorite restaurant when I was 6 and I’m 10 now and it still is my favorite restaurant I used to always go with my mother and get the marinated chicken, Mac and cheese, and mashed potatoes I wish they hadn’t closed all the locations down I would go anywhere to have it again now it’s a gross burger place called Fuddruckers please bring Koo Koo Roo back !

  • Ripper777 says:

    I went looking for the Koo Koo Roo on Larchmont but it was gone. Sad to read that they’re all closed. The best chicken breast sandwich ever, and I loved the Mac & cheese

  • Belkis molina says:

    I really really miss koo koo roo.. the best chicken sandwiches, bowls, original marinated chicken and the list goes on… bring it back!!!

  • Fred says:

    Best skinless chicken ever!! Would drive anywhere just to have it again.

  • Esteban Ceron says:

    Best chicken ever…ever !!!

  • Greg says:

    We used to eat (often) at the Koo Koo Roo on Lake Ave. in Pasadena. It was a weight lifters delight, as we would workout at hit this place for the protein.

    Side were delicious as well.

  • DaMaverick says:

    I loved Koo Koo Roo! I first got a taste of it at their location in downtown LA, right across from the MOCA in the Bunker Hill section in the early ’00s. The stores were so fun in design and stressed freshness, there were tons of vegetables used for aesthetic and seeing tons of rotiserie chickens rotating on the spit would make anyone’s appetite open up.

    My fav was the chicken chop bowl: chicken breast chunks, romaine lettuce, saffron rice, and I LOVED a mustard sauce. The sauce was not too mustard-y, not too sour creme-y, it was just flavor enough.

    I tried a lot of their locations, in Torrance next to the Del Amo mall, in Brentwood (next to Literati cafe), in Marina del Rey, Larchmont Village. But my fav locale was the DTLA spot. Long live KKR!

  • john says:

    PLease bring this joint back.

  • Luis Hernandez says:

    I used to be a Koo Koo Roo kitchen manager in North bervely Dr.
    Best food in town.
    But I still cook that kind of food in my house, for my guess. Maybe like 95% of the original taste. Pesto pasta, cucumber salad chicken chop , any way lot more especially thankgiving day.
    One restauran that is a litle like Koo Koo Roo is Boston market but kkR was best

  • Richard says:

    Simply put; Koo Koo Roo was the best!!

  • Tiffany says:

    I used to work at Bayside, Queens NY location in 1998 as the salad and sandwich chef,at the end of every shift, I always brought home dinner for the family. The chicken was amazing. Long Live Koo Koo Roo!!!

  • Kimchi says:

    I used to work at the Manhattan Village Mall and Koo Koo Roo was one of my staple take-out options. My favorite was the Thanksgiving Dinner, Turkey, Dressing, Mashed Potatoes, and Cranberry Sauce. It was a great place to eat and it was always busy. The staff was very nice and the place was always clean. My first job was El Pollo Loco so I never really ate fast food chicken but I am such a sucker for a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner on demand and Koo Koo Roo’s was the spot. I used to also go to the Koo Koo Roo’s across at the Del Amo Mall it was, in fact, the first time I had ever seen a Koo Koo Roo’s (maybe in the mid 90’s.)

  • LP says:

    I miss KooKooRoo so much! What I would do for their Chicken breast sandwich and a side of the cucumber salad.

  • Alison says:

    We used to go to the Koo Koo Roo at Wilshire and 20th in Santa Monica. Loved their turkey dinner plate, especially the dressing. Sometimes I would stop there to pick up family size side dishes for dinner at home. Squash and creamed spinach were our favorites. I even bought Koo Koo Roo stock – at $4. Watched it climb to $6… and plummet to .40. This was my llife lesson in the stock market I heard that there was a failed attempt to incorporate “Color Me Mine” the DIY pottery decorating stores into the KKR enterprise. That just sounded weird to me. The food was great though.

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