Chicken Inn: A Windsor outpost of Baghdad's Swiss Chalet
Windsor Morning's Jonathan Pinto visits Chicken Inn, a Windsor restaurant with Baghdad roots
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.
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.
Windsor's Chicken Inn is owned by Livon Mekho and his brother, Waleed. They bought the restaurant from their dad, Hermiz Hermiz in 2012.
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?
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.
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 is located at 714 Wyandotte St E. in Windsor. They're open every day.