Here's a find, an outstanding fast food place that's cheap, beautiful to look at, and doesn't serve hamburgers, pizza, subs or fried fish sticks.
The best way to describe the scope of the menu here is to recall Henry Ford's famous description of the color choices available with his original Model T: "You can have any color you like, so long as it's black." At El Pollo Primo, which opened just a few weeks ago, you can have anything to eat, so long as it's chicken.
But what chicken! These are big, meaty birds, marinated in fruit juices, herbs and what tastes like a modest touch of garlic, then broiled over charcoal on an open hearth. The result is chicken as it should be -- flavorful, aromatic, with a golden, just crisp skin and meat that's juicy through and through. Even the breast is tender and succulent.
The chicken is served with good tortillas, which raises some interesting possibilities. You can eat your tortillas with the chicken, or better yet, you can roll your own burritos, slathering on some of the excellent salsa that comes on the side.
That salsa, by the way, is exemplary -- chunky, lively, fresh tasting and moderate enough with the chili pepper that you can use it liberally and capitalize on its good flavor. Come to think of it, your hand-rolled tortilla-chicken-salsa combination tastes better than most restaurant burritos -- lighter, and with clearly distinguishable textures and flavors.
In an odd way, it's closer to Peking duck than to a burrito -- a piece of meat, a piece of skin, a dab of sauce, a fold of the pancake. It's a small world.
To go with your chicken, there are some good side dishes. Mexican rice is nicely flavored and reasonably firm in texture. If you choose to eat your chicken on a plate rather than rolled in a tortilla, spoon the rice in amid the chicken pieces and let it absorb the juices. If you're especially health conscious, you can order an extra rice, go easy on the quantity of chicken, and mix yourself a good pilaf.
The cole slaw is also exemplary, a slaw's slaw. Its cabbage is crisp, fresh and in good, hefty chunks; blessedly, the mixture is neither runny nor sweet. The black beans are pleasant enough, but they could use some improvement in the form of garlic and chili pepper. Short of bringing your own bottle of Tabasco and a garlic press, you can doctor them up by mixing in some of the good salsa.
Dessert at this early stage consists of just jello and pudding, but there's an ice cream place practically next door.
El Pollo Primo is immaculate, with white stucco walls, a ceramic tile floor and lots of plants and mirrors. What's more, the prices are rock-bottom and there's delivery service until 10 at night.