Saturday chicken

chicken

A COUPLE OF WEEKS ago, our favorite roast-chicken joint changed ownership. We lunched there virtually every Saturday for four years before heading downtown to sell our tasty pastries on the big plaza.

The new management had changed enough stuff that we decided to go elsewhere. That’s elsewhere you see in the photo. It is not Antoine’s or Galatoire’s, but the chicken is quite good.

It’s humble, to state it mildly. It sits next to a tire-fixing business and almost under a pedestrian overpass crossing the highway that heads to the state capital 40 minutes away. This place likely has a name, but I can’t tell you what it is. After four years at the previous restaurant, I can’t tell you its name either.

I don’t care about such stuff. I only care about the grub. My friend Don Cuevas, who writes a very good blog, can tell you the name of the previous place, and the names of the owners too. He’s a detail man and sociable, unlike me. He also once said the previous joint was the best restaurant in town, which was quite silly.

How can a restaurant that has only one item on the menu be the best restaurant in town? It did, however, serve some mighty fine roasted chicken. At times, Cuevas slips into hyperbole.

Roasted-chicken outlets are enormously popular in Mexico, and they are all over the place, almost on every corner. It may be one of the best reasons to live here. Roasted chicken rivals tacos.

There are basically three ways in which they are served, and the term roasted may not be strictly correct, but I use it as a catchall term because, again, I don’t really care about details. Cuevas knows the details.

Our previous Saturday eatery cooked chicken on a barbecue grill. A second popular way to prepare “roasted chicken” is on a huge, horizontal, revolving spit. The third style is what you see in the photo above. The young man is looking into a bottomless, metal box on the ground. Inside are chickens skewered upright on sticks that are stuck vertically into the dirt surrounded by hot coals. This style is less juicy than the other two methods.

Against the back wall is a homemade wood-burning stove atop which tortillas are cooked after the dough is smashed flat with a hand-pushed tortilla smasher. Rice is prepared there too. The old woman who does all this is off to the left at the moment. She’ll be right back. Click the photo for a closer look.

This roasted-chicken joint may well become our permanent Saturday replacement for the old spot. We don’t know yet — jury’s still out. The chicken-on-a-stick style is my least-preferred of the three methods, but it’s still quite good. And, God knows, these people need our dough. It’s a family business, and they’re neighbors.

32 thoughts on “Saturday chicken”

  1. This is a wonderful picture to go along with your post. Looking forward to hearing what the jury decides in the future. A family business is usually the best tasting food around. Take care and happy blogging to ya, from Laura ~

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    1. Thanks for the feedback, Laura. Yes, this is a family business. It’s a young couple (that’s the hubby at the stove box). The wife was inside, and the old lady at the fire, I imagine, is the mother of one of them. There is also a little girl. But the previous establishment was also a family business. They sold it because their kids grew up and wandered off. The kids had been helping with the business for years, and the parents did not want to hire employees to replace the kids. Said it was not economically feasible.

      Too bad because they really had some killer chicken.

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      1. Well perhaps the sellers will slowly pass on the secrets to the new owners. One can only hope, I suppose. But wouldn’t that be a grand gesture … take care.. ~

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        1. We ate there once after the change of hands. It was still pretty good, and we likely would have continued with them except for the seating. The old owners had regular chairs. The new ones have you perched on little stools. No way, José. Just goes to show how details can make or break a business.

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          1. The salsa served with the chicken under the new ownership of “Pollos Asados al Carbón El Tejaban”—where you and we had eaten for years— is thin and watery, unlike the thick, rich and spicy red salsa made by Sra. Rosa, the matriarch of the old place.

            But over all, I just felt that the New Generation lacks the serious intent of the parents. But, I could be wrong. As for the stools vs chairs, I give the kids some slack. Their start up budget may be tight, and stools are all they could afford. I noted earlier, on a local forum, that at our last visit, we were blessed with chairs at our table. All the rest had those low plastic stools.

            Possibly worthy of note is the primitive looking joint a few yards to the north of the Pollos Asados Al Carbon El Tejaban, which on the weekends offers barbacoa and carnitas. I propose to test it before long. Primitive restaurants call to me.

            By the way, thanks for the plug of my blog. At the moment, I have a draft written about the recent Encuentro de Las Cocineras Tradicionales, held over a week ago in, as you say, “our State Capital”. But I’ve been busy and that blog post is delayed.

            Saludos,
            Don Cuevas

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            1. I agree with you, Felipe, that the chicken cooked on a stake (Pollos al pastor style) is the least favorite method. Al carbón is Número Uno for us, Rostizado (Revolving spit cooked) Número dos.

              There are two pollos places down by La Estacíon. Various cooking methods are in use. And, if you don’t like those options, there’s a roadside Comida China establishment. (Not for me, thanks!)

              Saludos,
              Don Cuevas

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            2. Señor Cuevas: As the previous owners explained it to me, they gave up the business because their kids wanted to do other things instead of lending a hand. So, I don’t think the new administration is the offspring of the previous owners. Am I wrong?

              In any event, of course, I know why they have the stools instead of chairs. They have my sympathy, but they don’t have my backside. The last Saturday we ate there, which was the first Saturday of the new administration, we were the first to arrive about 1:30. We saw the sole table with real chairs, and we sat there. When drove past there yesterday and noticed that it remains with just one table that has chairs. I’m not squatting on a stool.

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          2. We had some pretty good chicken last week in Puerto Escondido – cooked on a spit over a wood fire. The place where we bought it had neither stools nor chairs so we ate it while sitting on a nearby stoop. It was a messy affair, involving lots of finger licking. Tasty, though.

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            1. Loulou: A place would have to offer spectacular chicken for me to sit on a nearby stoop. I wanna chair. There’s a street stand (Titantic Hamburgers) that sells fantastic burgers near our condo in Mexico City. We go there one evening per visit to that chaotic city. There is almost no place to sit there either, in the median of the street. It speaks to the memorable hamburgers that I am willing to stand there and eat the dang thing, trying to juggle the burger, a package of fries, and a bottle of water all at the same time while standing.

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  2. All we have is Pollo Loco at which to buy consistntly good grilled chicken. Recently added sister fast food joint is Pollo Tropical. No bueno. Nor is the rotisserie chicken from HEB. That’s all on the north side of town. It’s doubtful we have any of the roadside grillers in these parts, north or south of town. Health department, you know.

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    1. Carole: Health department indeed. While I’m sure they can serve a purpose at times, health departments are just more self-perpetuating government entities that meddle in the lives of the people.

      Down here, we ain’t got no steenking health departments. And you know what? People don’t die. And we have far more eating options.

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  3. I think the revolving roaster thingie is a rotisserie, although Mexicans wouldn’t use that term. We get ours at Pollo Lopez, a new chain in San Carlos, and it’s greasy but good. It comes with tortillas, small roasted onions and small roasted potatoes, plus you can get coleslaw or potato salad on the side. The Capt and I can get four meals out of one chicken. The other place in town is also a chain, but not so good—their side is simply marinated purple onions, which don’t ring my bell at all.

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    1. Bliss: Rotisserie, of course. The word did not enter my decrepit mind, which brings up another topic. I seem to lose more English everyday. I almost never speak it. I just write it online. But I digress.

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  4. In Louisiana and in Honduras, fried chicken is considered the ultimate in chicken cuisine. I do not agree. I liked Pollo Supremo in Tegucigalpa. This place on Boulevard America near the airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, that served almost nothing but roast chicken. They grudgingly offered sides such as beans, roasted onions, grilled plantains or fermented Honduran cabbage. When friends got out of the airport, always around 2 pm, after the sole flight from the US for the day, we would stop there for sustenance.

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    1. Laurie: For some reason fried chicken has not caught on here. Some guy returned from a stay in the States (an illegal no doubt. Don’t get me started) a few years ago and foolishly opened a fried chicken stand in our town. It lasted less than a year. I’m surprised it lasted that long.

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  5. Any chicken in Mexico is 100 times better than chicken NOB. I guess it is from the feed, antibiotics and God knows what else gets injected, but chickens here are now the size of turkeys and have no flavor. Enjoy your neighborhood pollo asado.

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    1. Bev: We do have spectacular chicken. Didn’t know the Gringo chickens had become tasteless elephants. I would not find that appealing. You poor people. My heart goes out to you.

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      1. Nonsense. There are rotisserie chickens in all the grocery stores around here (in the US) and they’re great. They’re little, juicy, fall-apart tender and delicious.

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  6. Most eating chicken in the U.S. is now from Cornish Crosses. They are bred to come to market size in six to eight weeks. They never fully feather out; everything goes into flesh production. They have trouble standing up, and if not harvested promptly, they may die of heart failure.

    Their carcass is pale white, and most of the fat is centered around the butt. They look like small turkeys when butchered. They have pretty much replaced capons in the market.

    Mexicans prefer a yellower, fatter-looking chicken. This is done by putting marigold into their feed.

    The market supplies what people want. Taste suffers.

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    1. Good Lord, Señor Gill. That is disgusting. If I ever set foot into the United States again, I will not eat chicken. Better yet. I’ll just stay here where I belong.

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  7. I eat too much chicken at home to desire chicken when I eat out. I take advantage of the Friday special on leg quarters at the local supermercado at half price and steam the chicken in my pressure cooker with chilis, veggies and beans. I am a big fan of Mexican chicken.

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    1. Perhaps the difference in taste is because in Mexico, they can still cook over charcoal. In the U.S., someone would report it, and the EPA and other agencies would put a stop to it.

      Worse than paying fines is listening to some ninnies harping about the so-called “global warming.” Living in Mexico all of those years, you missed out on a lot of insanity.

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      1. Señor Gill: I try to keep up online with the increasingly nutty American lifestyle, but I guess lots of the details pass me by because I’m not there in person. I should be very thankful for that.

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  8. Grilled chicken would be enough to keep me in Mexico. The chickens remind of the hens at Grandma’s — even though they were fried and never grilled. A chicken carcass mixed with rice and fresh vegetables will keep me in food for two to three days. You have motivated me into having a chicken Tuesday.

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    1. Señor Cotton: We’ll be having green pozole tomorrow, but it will be chicken on Wednesday. We have chicken almost every Wednesday with beans and rice. We don’t get Wednesday chicken where we get Saturday chicken. It’s a good bit farther away, the Wednesday chicken. We have more free time on Wednesday than on Saturday, which is pastry day.

      A day without chicken is like a day without flan.

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        1. Kris: My wife makes the best pozole I’ve ever eaten. Green is her preferred method. I usually find pozole in restaurants to be too greasy. It does not need to be.

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