Edward: I just sort of stumbled across El Pollo Picante while picking up lunch at Torino’s one day.
Did you ever eat at El Pollo Loco? I don’t think they’re in New Mexico.
Hannah: I have eaten at El Pollo Loco…maybe in Denver?
Edward: I guess this “El Pollo ____” is a thing!
Hannah: For one thing, I had no idea this place was in the Journal Center. I was visualizing a sketchy hole-in-the-wall near your work, or a disreputable strip mall on the west side.
Edward: It was a little sketchy the first time I was in there, but they might have nicened it up a bit since then.
Hannah: It’s all fancy inside!
Edward: I like it because it’s the kind of place my dad would have started. I can totally visualize how the (Korean) owners went about it. They were probably in California or something and were like, “Hey, the kids are crazy for this El Pollo Loco! But there are hardly any of these in Albuquerque!”
Hannah: Right, I don’t think that seasony grilled chicken is a big part of NM cuisine, but it is delicious!
Edward: Then the ajushi1 went around and found the perfect location.
Hannah: But it’s gotta be pricey in there, don’t you think?
I bet you that place is gone by next summer. Too bad.
Edward: My dad would have approved of this location, because it’s perfect for the lunch crowd, and there isn’t anything like it within 10 miles.
Hannah: Oh, good point.
Edward: I think it’ll stay.
My dad would have schmoozed the people who own the strip mall into giving him some kind of crazy cheap rent.
Either it went down like that, or they saw the “Mildred Pierce” miniseries, where Mildred realizes she can open a restaurant that serves only chicken and minimize waste.
Hannah: On to the chicken…
Edward: This is actually a very “Mildred Pierce” restaurant — their menu offers your choice of grilled chicken, grilled chicken, or grilled chicken.
1/4 pound, 1/2 pound, or whole.
It comes with a selection of salsas, rice and beans.
But I think that’s why this place can last, because it’s such a minimal, streamlined operation. The ajushi mans the grill and just cranks out the grilled chicken, and the ajima2 handles the counter.
All they have to buy is the chicken, whatever goes into the marinade, the salsas, and the rice, beans, and tortillas.
Plus, they just focus on chicken, so it’s delicious!
TURNAROUND IS THE SECRET OF GOOD RESTAURANT FOOD
Hannah: It is delicious, but what more can be said about seasoned grilled chicken? Oh, yep.
Also, their salsa is good…nice and fresh!
Edward: Yeah, I don’t know where they get that salsa, but I really like it. It doesn’t taste canned.
Oh, I forgot the grilled jalapeños!
It’s all pretty spicy, too.
It is indeed picante. And not ameliorated with cumin.
Hannah: Well, El Pollo Picante is rapidly becoming our go-to when we want a good tasty dinner but you don’t want to cook. It will last us a couple days in different applications, or just as re-heated chicken!
Edward: Yeah, the chicken makes a tasty base for other dishes.
Grilled chicken seems to have a reputation for being dry, but the way they make it, it’s always very moist — even the breast meat.
The owners are also really nice. The first time I went there, I got a half chicken and it was way too much, so the next time, I ordered the quarter chicken, but it looked a little small. I joked to them that they should have a 1/3 chicken. I think the guy felt bad, though, because after I sat down with my food, he came over and gave me an extra thigh!
They’re friendly, but they’re not OVERLY friendly like some places, ya know?
Hannah: Maybe they will adopt you!
I just want them to hire me!
Hannah: They’re probably younger than we are.
Edward: No no no no!
Did I not mention that they are an ajushi and ajima?
Hannah: Wait — how is the rice?
The beans are flavorful, and I like whatever corn tortillas they use. I also like that they use corn instead of flour.
Edward: The rice is good — soft, with enough flavor. Most of the time at Mexican places the rice is an afterthought, but here it’s well seasoned.
The torillas are definitely good, and I’m not normally a fan of corn tortillas. They’re a little sweet, maybe that’s why. I know they’re Korean because they like sweet and spicy!
That gives me a brainstorm…I should suggest to them that if they ever want to expand their menu, they should make a kalbi marinated chicken.
Edward: But maybe that would dilute their thing.
What the crap, maybe WE should open a kalbi chicken joint!
The logo would be a chicken wearing a polo shirt and slacks.
EL POLLO PICANTE
7600 Jefferson St NE #5, Albuquerque, NM 87109
Lunch & Dinner: Sunday – Saturday 10am – 8pm