Rotisserie League: Inka Chicken

 
 
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 5: Inka Chicken
1707 Wells Branch Parkway. 512-252-2222, www.inka-chicken.com.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
 
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 07.01.12
 
Ventilation was likely an issue in this building when it housed the long line of fryers for a Long John Silver’s franchise. But the system obviously wasn’t ready to handle the smoke generated by Inka Chicken’s charcoal pit and the rotisserie carousel of chicken that twirls lazily above it. In the late afternoon, a gauzy haze fills the air like the campfires of an expedition party.
 
Inka’s expedition in North Austin started in April, and while it’s not right in line with the Mexican motif of this series, it captures the same spirit of bringing charcoal, chicken and spice together.
 
What you get: The Family Dinner No. 1 includes a whole chicken, two large sides and salsa for $16.99. A half-chicken dinner with two small sides and a drink is $9.49. A whole chicken by itself is $10.99. Corn tortillas are 30 cents for two or $1.50 for 10. The best value might be a whole chicken with two small sides and a drink for $15.49.
 
The takeaway: Where Mexican-style chicken blushes red with powdered chiles, this Peruvian-style chicken is a study in matte brown. The flavor is different, too, dominated by grassy herbs and cumin instead of heat. A manger told me the chickens get a two-day liquid marinade before they’re dry-rubbed and put on the spit. As a result, the flavor reaches deep below the bronzed skin, especially in the big leg quarters that look like twin hatchets when the bird is cut into quarters. The pieces are cumbersome, their primeval bulk looking more like something a Viking might eat than a pre-Conquistador Incan.
 
The sides also tell us we’re not in Michoacan anymore, Toto. No swampy charro beans, no sunburned rice. Among the 10 choices are basmati rice, fried yuca and fried plantains. The plantains I can vouch for, caramelized to an amber sheen, with that tropical twang unique to a cooked banana. A side of sauteed vegetables was a garden sampler of green beans, red bell pepper and carrots both yellow and orange, but the mix was overcooked to mushiness. I missed having tortillas in the mix, but I liked the green salsa, an oily mix of peppers and herbs like pureed chimichurri. Avoid the white salsa, so much like tartar sauce you’d wonder if it was left in the walk-in by the previous administration. By the way, the Inca Kola they sell in golden cans looks and tastes like Red Bull without the wings.
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
 
ROTISSERIE LEAGUE
 Coming next: El Pollo Regio