Rotisserie League: El Pollo Regio

 
 
Whether it’s grilled, roasted or rotisseried, Austin’s had cheap Mexican-style chicken for years. Now a new place called Fresa’s sells a $24 version. This calls for a six-round showdown. Let the feathers fall where they may.
 
Round 6: El Pollo Regio
1725 Ohlen Road. No phone or working website.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday. 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
 
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 07.05.12
 
The smoke rising over the tiny shop and shrouding the nearby trees is a giveaway that El Pollo Regio puts the “al carbon” in pollos asado al carbon. Another giveaway? The 30-pound bags of charcoal stacked waist-high by the window at this walk-up shop that rides shotgun to the Mi Tiendita convenience store, where you can get Sweetleaf peach tea, a can of Four Loko or an orange-mango slushee. It’s a concession stand of a place with nowhere to sit, just some shade by the fence where I put this report together on the trunk of my car. At work, we used to joke that El Pollo Regio meant “chicken in a bag,” back when they ran a coupon in the paper for a half-chicken with beans and rice and a half-liter bottle of Mexican Coke for $5.
 
What you get: A whole chicken with small sides of rice and beans, a whole grilled onion, 10 corn tortillas, half a lime and red and green salsas for $12.93. A half-chicken combo is $7.52.
 
The takeaway: True to the cloud of smoke and a hardy hi-ho pollo surrounding this place, the chicken draws most of its flavor from the charcoal, like it came from an industrial Weber Kettle in the back, belching smoke and the lingering ash we love. This was the biggest pollo asado bird I’ve run across, chopped along proper joint lines into eight pieces, including a knob of breast the size of a tennis ball warped in flight. The skin had peeled away from one breast piece, lying to the side like curled jerky, where all the flavor lay waiting, a blend expressing salt first, then an ultra-mild red spice on the followup. The plain white meat had almost no flavor, and I appreciated the skin on the rest of the pieces, knowing that it was pulling double duty for moisture and taste.
 
I pushed aside the carbo-load of pink rice and mass-market tortillas to rediscover the other reason besides the crazy coupon price that we chased chicken in a bag: A bowl of beans loaded with rings of jalapeño, chopped onions and bacon waving like tiny flags of defiance.
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
 
 
ROTISSERIE LEAGUE
 Coming next: Chicken winners