Food & Drink
Chicken with a Cult Following at Pollos Asados
Published: July 30, 2014
It’s late on a Sunday morning, and the crowd that will soon fill Pollos Asados is just beginning to dribble in. Outside, the smoke from both Pollos Asados’ food truck and the charcoal grill annex wreaths the low-slung building in a fragrant haze: mesquite with an hint of incense. If there’s an object of veneration here, it’s the namesake chicken gilded with a chile rub and further bronzed by the hot-burning fuel. This is why you’re here. Step right up.
The eatery is all hard surfaces inside, so the worshipers turn out to be a lively crowd—especially when the background is the blare of conjuntos norteños. You gotta love accordion. But it all feels right, down to the Mexican soccer games on the TVs and the no-nonsense attitude of the feisty and efficient waitresses. Your medio pollo will set you back a modest $7.69 (the whole bird is $12.99), arriving faster than a hail Mary with acolytes of bacon-y frijoles charros, simple but savory rice, a charred onion half, a single chile toreado and tender corn tortillas, all flanking the chicken cradled in a burger basket. Pull a passel of tiny napkins from the dispenser before tucking in.
Though modesty forbids, I could live on the beans alone; their deep flavor is the kind that inspires home cooks to engage in fruitless alchemical experiments to recreate it. The onion, wrapped in aluminum foil after its charring so it continues to steam and soften, is another less-is-more triumph. The chicken itself is robed in crisp skin yet moist within, with the best flavor coming from the dark meat—no surprise there. Eat it straight from the bone or tuck some into a tortilla with onion and a lashing of the squirt-bottle salsa; it’s disarmingly minty in color and an odd but appealing combination of picosa and cremosa, in fact. Squirt away.
Pollos Asados could justify cult status on the basis of its pollos alone, but as it happens there are short-of-burnt offerings from an indoor grill as well. The fajitas, a half a pound for $9.59, are almost suspiciously tender but taste of a proper, peppery marinade and have been grilled with bell peppers and onions. They would show well against the city’s other shrines to sizzling skirt, and may even best the chicken as a whole-taco experience with (so-so) pico, avocado, some of the even curiouser warm, red salsa and a grilled, sliced jalapeño.
Other carnes asadas include sirloin (the top-of-the-line offering at $19.89 a pound) and costillas de res ($12.99), but if we were to try one other thing on the menu, it would be a burger. Seriously. But not the Clasica or the Norteña with queso asadero y mas–rather the Salchiburger that’s a mix of beef, grilled sausage, asadero cheese, avocado, chipotle sauce and grilled onion. At $7.89 this is clearly not a bargain like the chicken; the whole bird would easily feed four reasonable folks, given all the sides. But if you’re going to order a burger, it might as well have cojones.
Pollos Asados los Norteños
The Skinny Mesquite-grilled pollo prevails at this jumpin’ Eastside joint; fajitas aren’t far behind.
Best Bets Half chicken with all the sides, half pound fajitas with all the sides
Hours 11am-10pm Tues-Sat; 11am-8pm Sun