Pioneer Chicken

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Pioneer Take Out
Founded1961; 60 years ago (1961)
DefunctOpen in Los Angeles at 904 S. Soto Street, Los Angeles CA 90023 and in Bell Gardens at 6323 E. Florence Avenue, Bell Gardens, CA 90201
HeadquartersLos Angeles County, California, U.S.
ProductsFried chicken

Pioneer Chicken (or Pioneer Take Out, as it is officially named) is an American fried chicken restaurant chain which was founded in Echo Park, Los Angeles[1] in 1961 by H.R. Kaufman. When Kaufman sold the chain in 1987, there were 270 restaurants operated by 220 franchisees.[2][3]

During the 1970s, several locations operated in Honolulu on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. As of 2020, there are only two locations remaining, one in the Boyle Heights district of Los Angeles and the other in Bell Gardens, California, both unrelated former franchises.[citation needed]


It was named after Pioneer Market, a now-defunct small chain of supermarkets in Los Angeles. The original location in Echo Park was located next to the 1980s-era Pioneer Market (the original 1932 market was razed in the 1980s due to the Sylmar earthquake) at Echo Park Avenue and Sunset Boulevard, which was replaced by a Walgreens Pharmacy in 2004.[4] Due to considerable redevelopment activity in the neighborhood, the original Pioneer Chicken location was shut down in March 2009[1] and replaced by a Little Caesar's Pizza the following year.[5] During the 1980s, Los Angeles Lakers announcer Chick Hearn and former football player O.J. Simpson advertised for the restaurant.

Pioneer Chicken was remembered for its bright orange deep fried chicken, menu option of gizzards and livers as appetizers, and Pioneer Pete,[6] the company mascot and main character in comic books that were provided with their kid's meals.


In 1988 founder H. R. Kaufman and business associate Terrence P. Goggin filed for Chapter 11 in Federal Bankruptcy Court. At that point, Pioneer Chicken had 220 franchise owners and 270 stores. The company faltered under competition pressure from Kentucky Fried Chicken.[7]

AFC Enterprises acquisition[edit]

In 1993, Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits owner AFC Enterprises purchased the franchise and converted most locations to Popeyes.[8]


There are two remaining locations in the Los Angeles area: 1) 904 S. Soto Street, Los Angeles; 2) 6323 E. Florence Avenue, Bell Gardens.

In Indonesia[edit]

In 1983, three alumni from the University of Southern California decided to open a Pioneer Chicken franchise in Jakarta under the name California Fried Chicken.[9][10]

As of 2013, the parent company of the stores in Indonesia, Pioneerindo Gourmet International, have over 200 CFC restaurants throughout that nation.[11] CFC had a few franchises in Shanghai during the 1990s, but they may not currently exist.[12]


Warren Zevon's song "Carmelita" refers to Pioneer Chicken: "I pawned my Smith Corona/And I went to meet my man / He hangs out down on Alvarado Street/By the Pioneer chicken stand". In The Aquabats' 1997 song "Magic Chicken!", the singer invites the listener to "Do the Pioneer!" during a funk breakdown where various chicken restaurant franchises are named.[citation needed]

The opening of the film The Last American Virgin shows a Pioneer Chicken location at the northeast corner of Hollywood & Western in the background as the protagonist Gary (Lawrence Monoson), drives off making a pizza delivery. The same location is shown in one scene in Death Wish II and towards the end of the music video for DeBarge's "Rhythm Of The Night"

A Pioneer Chicken location is briefly shown in the background in the 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High during the restaurant scene involving the dissatisfied customer. The site was located on San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood, Los Angeles.[citation needed] The Silverlake location can be seen in the background of The Hollywood Strangler Meets the Skid Row Slasher.

A Pioneer Chicken outlet is shown at the beginning of Armed And Dangerous when one of the film's protagonists, Frank Dooley (John Candy) is on patrol just before he is framed.

In the first season opening montage of the television series Full House, a jumbo pack box of chicken is shown next to baby Michelle with the slogan "Home of the Golden Pioneer Chicken" on the side. This montage is also seen in the first episode of the reboot Fuller House.

The pilot episode of The White Shadow shows Pioneer Chicken in the last 15 minutes of the episode as the team travels down the boulevard.

Pioneer Chicken was also seen in the "Brat Patrol" episode of the TV series CHiPs.

In the Hughes Brothers documentary American Pimp the Pioneer Chicken 904 S. Soto Street is featured as described by Rosebudd, one of the pimps interviewed.

In Straight Time, the character Max Dembo (Dustin Hoffman) is shown at a Pioneer Chicken stand counting his money after having robbed a grocery store.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • "Pioneer Chicken in Bankruptcy; Most Stores to Remain Open". Los Angeles Times. January 27, 1991. Retrieved March 22, 2015.
  • Vintage Pioneer Chicken Sign Heading to Museum Los Angeles Magazine March 2, 2016


  1. ^ a b Gelt, Jessica (2009-03-24). "Pioneer Chicken kicks the bucket". Los Angeles Times.
  2. ^ Sanchez, Jesus & Yoshihara, Nancy (1988-01-19). "A Takeover That Ended a Friendship: Pioneer Take-Out Founder, Purchaser at Odds Over Terms". Los Angeles Times.
  3. ^ Medearis, John (1991-04-09). "Pioneer Chicken Tries to Emerge From Its Second Bankruptcy". Los Angeles Times.
  4. ^ Lelyveld, Nita (August 1, 2004). "Lox, Stock and Pickle Barrel Go as Old Market Closes". Los Angeles Times.
  5. ^ "Crazy bread! Pioneer Chicken in Echo Park to become a Little Caesars pizza". Los Angeles Times. 2010-03-16.
  6. ^ "Pioneer Pete Rides Off Into The Sunset - Los Angeles Magazine". Los Angeles Magazine. 2011-06-23. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  7. ^ SANCHEZ, JESUS; YOSHIHARA, NANCY (1988-01-19). "A Takeover That Ended a Friendship : Pioneer Take-Out Founder, Purchaser at Odds Over Terms". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  8. ^ "Pioneer Chicken Switches to Popeyes". Los Angeles Times. 1993-06-10.
  9. ^ "Countries To Go". Adweek. 1985-05-20. Link via LexisNexis.
  10. ^ "Profil Perusahaan" [Company Profile]. PT Pioneerindo Gourmet International Tbk (in Indonesian). Archived from the original on 2015-05-15. Retrieved 2013-04-14. (English translation of webpage) via Google Translate.
  11. ^ "California Fried Chicken Grows 21%". Indonesia Today. 2013-03-23. Archived from the original on 2014-08-06.
  12. ^ Chen, Kathy (1997-12-02). "KFC Rules Shanghai's Fast-Food Roost With Ads, Training and Giveaways". Wall Street Journal.