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Rotisserie Chicken in Bay Area

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Roli Roti is a servicable bird when you don't have the time or inclination to prepare your own, but nothing to write home about. Would never even think about reheating it, rather, just eat it when you buy or bring home and eat it. If only it tasted as good as the smell in the surrounding area...

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  1. poulet roti, you seem like the right chowhound to ask, where do you recommend for rotisserie chicken?

    10 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Ahh, thanks for the compliment. I think I first discovered excellent rotisserie chicken close to 16 or 18 years ago at the old Gira Polli on Union Street in North Beach. At the time, he was innovative with his own designed spinning rotisserie and small chickens seasoned with rosemary, onion, lemon and orange. The citrus was very prominent. Also, he was using almond wood which imparted a very mild but noticable flavor. Anyways, I still recall that as being one of the best although he eventually went downhill as probably tired of the restaurant and other problems. Nevertheless, times change and so do our tastes. Many people tend to confuse roast chicken with rotisserie chicken and grilled chicken. For instance, Il Pollaio serves a pretty good, albeit sometimes dry, grilled chicken. Zuni, Delfina, Nopa, etc. all have their own way of preparing roast chicken but not that many places truly have a rotisserie chicken. Anyways, my favorite chickens would be as follows:

      Zuni - all time favorite although hard to justify the price and wait(s) both for a table and the 55 minutes for the chicken. Nonetheless, always worth the wait.

      Nopa - just had the roast chicken a few weeks ago and give it a solid B+

      Mistral (Ferry Building) - makes a nice little roast chicken - perfect for 1

      Delfina - same story, solid B+, hard to argue with it

      What is the name of the place over in Albany on Solano? Excellent small chicken at this place served by a slightly surly frenchman as I recall.
      Anyways, I could talk chicken forever as not too many places that I have not tried their chicken - roasted or rotisserie.

      Rarely do I purchase store bought, of any kind of store, roast chicken as prefer to make it myself at home. Good for at least one per week assuming my wife does not tire of the meal too much.

      1. re: poulet_roti

        That's dedication...please keep talking, we're listening. Have you kept up with Gira Polli in Marin?

        Gira Polli
        590 E Blithedale Ave
        Mill Valley, CA 94941
        (415) 383-6040

        1. re: poulet_roti

          poulet roti:

          Would it be possible for you to post your roast chicken recipe/method on the Home Cooking board? Thanks.

          1. re: poulet_roti

            I swear I saw the chickens at NOPA rotating on a spit, and Bauer said it was rotisserie in his review. Am I missing something?

            1. re: Morton the Mousse

              Having observed a friend chewing on the bones - all that was left of a very generous half chicken at NOPA, I couldn't say for sure if it was roasted or roti-ed, but I CAN say if was delicious. Their menu, however, calls it "rotisserie chicken"

            2. re: poulet_roti

              I tried Gira Polli when it was the new kid on the block and was never that impressed. Not rotisserie, but I have always much preferred the grilled chicken around the corner at Il Pollaio. They also have excellent french fries and crisp, refreshing salads. I usually get two specials (chicken and salad, sausage and fries) and have a mixed grill plus left overs. Their chicken is seasoned such that it requires no additional salt and the skin is very nicely crisped. I have never found it to be dry in many, many visits. If it makes a difference, the owner is Italian from Brazil.

              For true rotisserie chicken, I would go for Magnani's. One of the few things I like at the Pasta Shop is the Thai rotisserie chicken.

              1. re: chocolatetartguy

                I see their chickens all the time, and have yet to try one. Can you describe/compare to others in this post?

                1. re: lmnopm

                  Magnani on Hopkins near Monterrey Market specializes in all things poultry. They have 3-4 varieties of rotisseried chickens (teriyaki, lemon rosemary). I prefer the plain bbq. It's a big, done but moist bird and you can get it nicely browned. The skin has a nice light bbq sauce-like flavor and I've always felt that their chicken has more flavor than others I've tried. They also have big russet potatoes baked in the meat juices.

                  Following that theme, it's the skin on the Pasta Shop Thai. It's rubbed with what they call Thai spices and is slightly hot and very aromatic. I'm not a big fan of PS. The skin is the only thing that makes this variety out of the ordinary. It is a fair-sized bird. I can usually get three big meals out of one. Pair a bird with some Sesame noodles and some cole slaw and you've got an easy meal.

              2. re: poulet_roti

                The place on Solano is Lola's. The guy is not french and more than surly. He is just conceited and rude. IMHO, his chickens are dry and inferior to Costco's, at more than twice the price

                1. re: roberty

                  Not going to argue with you on this one as it has been sometime since I was there, but I do recall the attitude. Worth noting though is that most purchased roasted chickens can be dry - which is another reason to learn to perfect it and prepare at home.

            3. OK, has anyone tried California Golden Chicken yet? It is finally open!!!! after what seems like a year just sitting there. On S. Van Ness and 21st in SF. I have yet to make it over there and can only assume we are talking rotisserie. Would love to hear anyone's experience.

              1. What is the name of the place over in Albany on Solano?

                Lola's on Solano. It is currently my favorite roast chicken.

                I haven't yet found Gira Poli in Marin, but GP on a bad day to me is still better than most other chicken on their best.

                I am shocked ... shocked that Mistral's inconsistant, usually dry chicken would be preferred over the aromatic, moist Roli Roti.

                Since you mention chicken that is not rotisserie in your list, have you tried that place on Polk that I keep meaning to try for decades?

                Have you tried Cafe Rouge (a disappoinment to me)? What is your take on Goood Frickin Chicken? The thing I like about that bird is how the spices flavor the meat, not just the skin. Poulet does one decent version, but I'm forgetting which one right now. Taste in Berkeley did a good chicken when it opened, but I haven't been there in a while. It is just with Lola's in that area, it takes effort to sample other chickens.

                2 Replies
                1. re: rworange

                  Cafe Rouge is only good if you get it fresh from the spit. When you buy a whole chicken from the meat counter it has often been sitting under a heat lamp. The half rotis. chick. they serve on the lunch and dinner menu is excellent.

                  1. re: rworange

                    I agree about Roli Roti - the chicken I've had from them has always been delicious, moist (yet crispy)and perfectly spiced.

                  2. As to Gira Polli, I sure miss it. I stopped once in the Marin branch to get a meal to-go, and it just wasn't the same (but bringing home food to reheat is never a good judge). Lola's is very good. I don't know why people think he's surly. Costco is better than 75%+ of "gourmet" rotisserie chicken out there.

                    1. The chicken at Good Frikin' Chicken (10 29th Street, SF) has gotten very good mention on this board. Is it roasted or rotisserie?

                      4 Replies
                        1. re: DavidT

                          GFC does both a rotisserie and a grilled butterflied (spatchcock) chicken. They use slightly different marinades for each, but both are tasty. My only question with GFC is where are they able to find such small chickens...?

                          ...and yeah, they can be a tad dry, but dipping them in that great hummus solves that problem!

                          1. re: Civil Bear

                            For small chickens, one usually orders a Poussin (I just bought a bunch from d'Artagnan)


                            1. re: Civil Bear

                              GFC is okay. they are using an old rotisserie acquired from the old Boston Chicken and subsequently Boston Market. Their chicken is okay, although every time i have had it it has tended to stick with me for another day or so. Obviously, it is not the chicken but rather the seasonings and spices that contribute to the heartburn.

                          2. zuni cafe and/or costco serve up the best rotisserie chicken in the area. they are the only chickens in the area worth eating, for what each of them are.

                            1. The Colusa Market in Kensington has nice chickens. I haven't been in a while, but I think they're rotisserie. They're also pretty reasonable. Costco chickens are like a drug. I've sworn them off. Too salty!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Glencora

                                I agree - the last time I had Lola's chicken, I ate a lot of it, and didn't start to puff up and swell and thought how much better this must be for me than a Costco chicken, full of whatever crap that keeps it moist and juicy, yes, juicier than Lola's, but I felt a lot better after eating at Lola's.

                              2. If you eat too much Costco chicken you can develop a real case of "brine fatigue." The briny essence overpowers the chicken. Over time it sets up camp in the taste center in your brain, and doesn't go away. I used to eat Costco chicken often; now I don't touch it.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: santoku45

                                  It definitely doesn't affect me the same way (thank goodness) and I love using the leftovers for soup...or jook

                                2. COSTCO -- can't beat $5 for the biggest chicken ever (though i try not to think about what makes it so big).

                                  1. Costco gets it, hands down. If for some bizarre reason you have leftovers, it's great for tearing apart and putting on salads.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: La Chispa

                                      I think one of the things that makes the costco chickens so good is that you're
                                      buying them as they come off the spit. At least, the opportunity is there if you
                                      wait around a bit. This is what makes or breaks a rotisserie chicken. Tweny minutes
                                      under a heat lamp will kill it.

                                      This is what really turned me off at Taste in Berkeley. A rotissereie plus wine bar. What could
                                      be more simple and beautiful? What could possibly ruin such a perfect idea? Answer: wine
                                      robots and heat-lamp chicken.

                                      Anyway, back to costco. The way to enjoy a costco chicken best is to go with a friend.
                                      Set your friend on the end of one of the long lines. You head back and grab a five dollar
                                      bottle of Clos du Bois and the most-recently-cooked chicken you can find. Your friend
                                      is nearing the register so give them the bird and bottle. Pay and drive out to the Albany
                                      Bulb and dig in. Remember the corkscrew because you don't want to be pushing the
                                      cork into the bottle with greasy fingers.

                                      Not sure how to work this at costcos other than the Richmond one.

                                    2. I almost never order roast chicken in restaurants, but I was pretty blown away by the rotisserie chicken at Nopa last week. It's cooked over an oak wood fire on a J&R rotisserie (I piece of equipment that is near the top of my list of most coveted equipment). The chicken really soaked up the flavor of the smoke in a way that it didn't need any sauce.

                                      Regarding Lola's, is it still open?

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Brett Emerson

                                        Yep, Lola's is still open. Don't scare me. This is my chicken source.

                                      2. There is a place on International and Fruitvale that has mexican style roasted chickens which are juicy and very fresh. The skin is treated with a mild spice rub...I always get one when I visit the area (it is a supermarket).

                                        I must admit that I am also addicted to Costco chickens! I have tried very hard to like the dry, skinny, tough, organic chickens from Wholefoods, but even when mixed with three jars of Mayo they are inedible!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: maus1

                                          Whoa, whoa! The best chickens I have ever had (by far) were very skinny, tough (prior to slow roasting), well traveled, very gamey, organic (fed on instects & corn) chickens from my grandmothers farm in Jalisco... it will just take the local establishments a few years to figure out how to cook these deeply flavored wonders... you will see that you will never want one of those Barry Bonds 'roid laden chickens after you have a good organic one.

                                        2. I haven't been in a while, but Pete's on Mission has rotisserie chickens to buy frsh off the spit and take to go. They also do this wonderful thing where they alternate racks of baking potatoes between the spits of chickens, so that the drippings from the chickens baste the potatoes as they rotisserie away.....

                                          Zach Georgeopoulos, (remember him?) he used to rave about the place. It was a staple in my siter's house when she lived around the corner. but it has been maybe 5 years since i have gone since the SO hates roasted, rotisseried chicken...OH THE PAIN....

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: jupiter

                                            Is Pete's still there?!? It's been maybe 10 years since I've been
                                            there, but those were some great, cheap chickens though much
                                            better when not slathered in bbq sauce.

                                            Greasy potatoes are a *must* with a roast chicken and Pete
                                            did them well.

                                            Northeast corner of Mission and 20th, right?

                                          2. FoodMax also has a respectable roast chicken on par or better than COSTCO here at most times. I got a dry bird occassionally but usually quite good.