Windsor

Chicken Inn: A Windsor outpost of Baghdad's Swiss Chalet

Chicken Inn on Wyandotte Street is the Windsor outpost of what could be described as the Swiss Chalet of Baghdad.

Windsor Morning's Jonathan Pinto visits Chicken Inn, a Windsor restaurant with Baghdad roots

Charbroiling chicken at Windsor's Chicken Inn

6 years ago
Duration 1:22
Chicken Inn co-owner Livon Mekho shows how his restaurant's signature charbroiled chicken is prepared. 1:22

If you've travelled on Wyandotte Street between downtown Windsor and Walkerville, you've probably seen the sign for a restaurant called Chicken Inn.

It features a large arrow sign made with light bulbs.

Windsor's Chicken Inn is located at 714 Wyandotte St E. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

I've eaten there a number of times with friends. They have great middle eastern food — stuff like kebabs, hummus and fattoush.

When I returned this week, I thought I would be talking to the owners about these familiar dishes.

Then I found out that I've been missing out on the restaurant's signature item: whole chickens. The birds are both marinated in and served with a secret sauce. Turns out, Chicken Inn is the Windsor outpost of what could be described as the Swiss Chalet of Baghdad.

It started in Iraq about 45 years ago.

A look at one of the original restaurants in Baghdad. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Windsor's Chicken Inn is owned by Livon Mekho and his brother, Waleed. They bought the restaurant from their dad, Hermiz Hermiz in 2012.

Livon and Waleed Mekho purchased Chicken Inn from their father, Hermiz Hermiz (right). (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Back in Iraq, Hermiz had quite the food empire. 

He owned a large food processing facility that prepared a number of foods, including meat pies. Hermiz also owned a small chain of restaurants, called Chicken Inn, which was famous for its rotisserie chicken.

Do you remember that famous video from the Iraq War, where the American soldiers brought down the large statue of Saddam Hussein? 

U.S. marine corp assaultman Kirk Dalrymple watches as a statue of Iraq President Saddam Hussein falls in central Baghdad on April 9, 2003. (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)

That statue was in a place called Firdos Square. There's a Chicken Inn restaurant nearby.

So how did Windsor get a Chicken Inn?

Seventeen years ago, Hermiz moved his family to Canada, sold his businesses in Iraq, and purchased a restaurant in Windsor. 

Naturally, he called it Chicken Inn. They sold rotisserie chickens, just like in Baghdad. But there was a problem.

According to Livon and Waleed, rotisserie chickens aren't that common in Iraq. That's why the business was so successful.

In Canada, rotisserie chicken is everywhere, especially in grocery stores. And Swiss Chalet has a pretty strong hold on the rotisserie restaurant market.

Each butterflied chicken is marinated in their signature sauce before it hits the grill. More sauce is added during the cooking process. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

So, Hermiz decided to change things up. He started selling chickens that were butterflied and cooked on a charcoal grill. He even developed a tangy and spicy secret sauce to go with it.

Today, 70% of the sales at Chicken Inn in Windsor are charbroiled chickens. The rotisserie is history. 

Despite the change of their signature product, the Chicken Inn name is still a draw for customers familiar with the original in Iraq. Livon says they regularly get customers from Michigan and the Greater Toronto Area.

Chicken Inn's signature charbroiled chicken is served with rice, soup, salad and a side of their secret sauce. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Chicken Inn is located at 714 Wyandotte St E. in Windsor. They're open every day.

It's Baghdad's answer to Swiss Chalet - and you can find it right here in Windsor. Jonathan Pinto told us all about Chicken Inn. 6:51

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jonathan Pinto is the host of Up North, CBC Radio One's regional afternoon show for Northern Ontario and is based in Sudbury. He was formerly a reporter/editor and an associate producer at CBC Windsor. Email jonathan.pinto@cbc.ca.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now