A few of the times that I have visited my son, Steve, in San Jose, I have enjoyed the food at El Pollo Loco. The one we go to there is located in an area that is predominantly Hispanic, so it has to compete with some really good Mexican restaurants and does quite well.
A few weeks ago I contacted Russ Salazar and asked if he wanted to try the El Pollo Loco in Folsom, which is located at 654 E. Bidwell St, on the north side, between Glenn and Wales drives (the building was originally a KFC). We decided to do just that the following Tuesday.
The first thing you notice at this El Pollo Loco is huge grills with a lot of chickens spread-eagled on them…I mean a LOT of chickens.
It was around 12:30 or so, and the restaurant was fairly busy.
We first looked at the menu board and then the gentleman at the counter handed us some menus so we could sit down and decide what we wanted. Since booths are notoriously too narrow for us, I picked one of the high tables with stools. I like them best if restaurants have them.
Russ decided we should get four pieces of chicken to try, which came with two sides and a drink. I added an avocado stuffed chicken quesadilla (cheese, avocado, cabbage, pico de gallo and cilantro dressing) and a poblano avocado chicken burrito (avocado, rice, pinto beans, corn, cilantro, diced onions, melted jack cheese and poblano salsa). For sides we chose pinto beans and rice, the true test of a Mexican restaurant.
Since I had joined their club a couple of days before, we received as a gift a small bag of chips and some excellent, chunky guacamole.
Russ, who doesn’t like cilantro, figured he could handle the dressing, but we asked for no cilantro in any of the dishes (to some people, cilantro has an off taste. It is genetic).
While we waited for our food, we went to the salsa bar and picked up samples of their several salsas to try with our food. They have a fresh salsa that they make daily from fresh tomatoes. Russ really liked it. I thought it was a bit fizzy.
The first thing to arrive was the chicken: wing, thigh, breast and leg. Along with it came a large bag of chips, my small bag of chips and the guacamole. The chips were fresh and, as I mentioned before, the guacamole was excellent.
They marinate the chicken in citrus, spices and garlic before fire grilling and it had nice color, was crisp on the outside and tasted good, although I thought it was a bit dry.
We had asked for the quesadilla and burrito to be cut in two so we could share them, but instead they gave us a plastic knife to use. A pocket knife would have done a better job.
The burrito had lots of chicken and was flavorful and quite good. Even though it wasn’t supposed to have cilantro in it, Russ found some in his half and frowned at me about it.
The quesadilla was an unexpected surprise. They had left out everything but the chicken. I took it back and they made us a new one with everything in it. They put it in a hot press after they made it, so it had a nice toast to the outside, which adds flavor.
I liked the quesadilla. It was flavorful and had lots of chicken in it. I dipped it in their salsas and really liked it with all of them: mild to hot. Russ fished out the cilantro (which wasn’t in the list of ingredients but seemed to be only in his half), frowning at me again. Without the cilantro, he thought it was very good.
The sides were a bit skimpy (nothing ever looks like or is the size of the pictures). The beans we both decided were blah without added salsa and the rice was not only blah, but dry. I think next time I will try their macaroni and cheese as a side (macaroni and cheese, wait a minute, isn’t this a Mexican restaurant?).
The food was overall, good, but the presentation was so-so.
The menu includes lots of chicken choices, salads and bowls, several more burritos, four kinds of tacos, a large list of “Under 500 Calories” dishes, a tortilla roll, churros and even chicken tortilla soup.
In addition to the pinto beans, rice and macaroni and cheese, the list of sides includes black beans, cole slaw, corn, broccoli, a Loco side salad and mashed potatoes and gravy.
Apparently a big part of their business is catering. From the size of their grills, I will bet they can handle any crowd.
This El Pollo Loco is open seven days a week from 10 until 10. The drive-through stays open until a half-hour later.
For more information you can call them at (916) 986-9660 or visit their webpage at www.elpolloloco.com.