Rotisserie League: Julio's Cafe

 
 
Whether it’s grilled, roasted or rotisseried, Austin’s had cheap Mexican-style chicken for years. Now Fresa’s sells a $24 version. This calls for a six-round showdown. Let the feathers fall where they may.
 
Round 4: Julio’s Cafe
4230 Duval St. 512-452-1040, www.juliosaustin.com.
Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Note: Roasted chicken isn’t available on Sunday.
 
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 06.30.12
 
A gas-fired rotisserie is a different proposition than the charcoal-fired grill at Fresa’s that inspired this Rotisserie League series. But no conversation about roasted Mexican-style chicken in Austin is complete without Julio’s. My spectacular hippie girlfriend first brought me here in 1987, years before rotisserie chickens became a ubiquitous part of the grocery-shopping experience. Tucked into the Hyde Park food court that includes Mother’s Cafe, Quack’s, Hyde Park Bar & Grill, Asti and Dolce Vita, Julio’s exudes friendly charm that swirls through shaded patios outside and bounces off walls of purple, adobe and green inside, where you order at the counter and fetch your own drinks
 
What you get: A half-chicken combo with rice, pinto beans, three flour tortillas and salsa is $9.50. A whole chicken with tortillas and salsa is $10.
 
The takeaway: What you lose from the primitive charge of charcoal grilling you gain in a refined herb rub on tender skin over meat that’s moist from the dark of the wing to the arc of the breastbone. Julio’s serves the half-chicken as a whole piece, cloven neatly down the middle, making it a knife-and-fork appreciation of how the bird is put together — where textures and forms flow organically together — rather than the fragmented singularities of a cut-up bird. Few of us are strictly white-meat or dark-meat people. We like some of each, especially when they draw from the deep well of flavor only a bone-in bird can bring.
 
The sides function as filler, both the indistinguishable orange-pink rice and pintos in their languorous liquor. The civility of the plate is broken only by a bright red salsa that reminds you you’re not in the deli aisle at the grocery.
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
 
ROTISSERIE LEAGUE
 Coming next: Inka Chicken