Photos by Thomas Forman
The Santa Anita Mall food court might not conjure images of top quality eateries, but the new outdoor dining area challenges the bad status assigned to food court fare. The surrounding San Gabriel Valley, with a burgeoning asian food scene, is apparent in the new spots at the mall. Across from an also recently opened Din Tai Fung, Buddy Chicken offers Taiwanese street food-style fried chicken. Mainly specializing in chicken, this fast casual restaurant also provides a variety of drinks ranging from boba to tea.
The straightforward menu mainly consists of “Buddy Chicken,” also called Chicken Steak, served alongside a variety of other chicken dishes. The Chicken Steak is served fried to the right degree: it is not greasy nor does it provoke a sense of queasiness. The outer texture is delicate yet crunchy and lightly salted and peppered whereas the chicken on the inside is tender and savory. For customers who like an extra blast of flavor, Buddy Chicken replaces the original flavor of the chicken with a sweet plum or extra spicy base.
For those cannot fulfill their appetites with a Chicken Steak, the menu features meals such as Chicken Cup, Chicken Rice Bowl, Chicken Salad, and Chicken Wrap for no more than seven dollars. These variations are accompanied with a myriad of sides, allowing customers to pick and choose according to their preferences. The Chicken Cup contains only chicken and fries, perfect for those in need of a quick and simple meal. The Chicken Rice Bowl, however, contains both rice and salad in addition to the chicken. This meal fairly larger than other options, attracting shoppers with larger cravings. The Chicken Salad and Wrap, similar to the Cup, are also quick and simple meals just served in another variation.
Sweet potato fries, fish and calamari balls, popcorn chicken, and chicken wings are also offered as side options along meals. For instance, the sweet potato fries, Additionally, drinks such as boba, tea, and slushes are available to quench thirsty customers.
Although small, this restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating and is rarely crowded, thus creating a spacious and quiet environment with music playing in the background. The staff is friendly and warm, making the ordering process efficient and the lines are short as customers file in and out throughout the day. However, the wait for food is usually around 10 to 15 minutes, which is slightly longer than other fast-food restaurants. When waiting, customers can briefly visit other places such as Teavana, an innovative tea shop directly across from Buddy Chicken, and look around and explore their creative combinations of ingredients.
Although Buddy Chicken, at a distance appears to be nothing extraordinary, it serves as a classic mall stall for shoppers through the day. The Taiwanese fried chicken is a delightful surprise, perfect for those who crave for an extra zest in chicken at a reasonable price.
400 S Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007
Price Range: Under $10