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El Pollo Loco

I'm curious what chowhounders think of this place?

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  1. I visited one once, in San Jose CA. There was a framed cutting from Saveur magazine on the wall. (!?!) I thought my burrito was awful, but my son liked his chicken, so maybe I just ordered badly.

    1. When I was younger in Los Angeles we ate here frequently. It was delicious!

      We moved to Arizona 6 years ago after many years in Seattle where there was no El Pollo Loco and were delighted to see them here.

      We've tried them twice over the last six years and it just isn't the same. I"m sure it's a result of expanding...and probably some my changing tastes!

      1. Love the chicken, and black beans rolled in a flour tortilla for a yummy fast food snack....it does make a mess in the car though.......

        1. Only been there once. On a fast-food scale it gets good marks for the money. I like that the menu allows for lots of mixing and matching.

          1. Compared to the other fast food options out there, I lament leaving So Cal and Pollo Loco behind. Love the tang to their chicken...and their tortillas. But, still, it's fast food....

            1. I love El POLLO compared with Tco bell or Del Taco. The stuff always has a fresh taste and you can't go wrong with spending $6 on an ultimate chiecken bowl and tortillas. You'll be eating leftovers for lunch the next day!

              1. The chicken is really tasty when it is fresh.

                1. I eat there a few times a year. I think it's decent (not the best, not the worst). I would be fine having it for lunch or dinner, when lacking time and wanting to use a drive-thru option.

                  1. I like it a lot, good flavor, nice char from the open flame. I never get the burritos or bowls or any of that, just the chicken and some sides.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: slacker

                      I've had the combo grilled chicken burrito meal with fries and a drink. For some reason, they also give you chips with this. It was really a lot of food, and since I was really hungry, it tasted really good. That meal alone was probably enough calorie intake for the whole day.

                    2. The grilled chicken is fine, and a good fast food choice. They make a good avocado salsa (can't really call it guacamole; its too thin. Salsa describes it better). I also find their tortilla soup decent, especially if I have a cold and don't have time to make my own chicken soup.....

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: janetofreno

                        I'll keep this in mind, next time I get sick. :) I didn't even know they had soup.

                      2. I stick with the 3-pc grilled chicken (2 breasts and wing) and it's always good. I like the orange chili lime sauce that's in the salsa bar (for a while they were using it on the grill). The ones near me always have fresh pico de gallo. The sides are nothing special. It's all about the chicken.

                        1. Living in Phoenix has advantages for Mexican cuisine that include better places than El Pollo Loco. That being said, if I have very little pocket money and am hungry, their value meal is pretty decent, especially the BRC Burritos for a buck.

                          I just wish they were less stingy with their salsa.

                          1. I don't understand your comment about the salsa... all the Pollo Locos here have salsa bars and you can help yourself to all you want. Of course, if you go to the driveup window that presents a problem ... (I've been known to park and get takeout for just that reason....)

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: janetofreno

                              I did the drive-thru at an El Pollo Loco in Culver City a few months ago and they only had a couple of types of salsa available, and not the one I like which is the green avocado-y one. I asked the window person about that and she looked at me like I was from Mars. The next time, I went in instead. Before my first visit there it had been many years since I'd been to El Pollo Loco. Those two recent visits reminded me that it can be decent - but I stick with plain chicken and a couple of sides, have never tried a bowl or a burrito. Both times, one of my sides was steamed veggies (broc, cauliflower, carrots) - once they were good and crisp, the other, squishy and soggy.

                              1. re: janetofreno

                                Sorry, I should have noted that it was the drive thru that is stingy with the salsa. My apologies.

                              2. Random, but the macaroni and cheese is actually very good here in a pinch. Also second the rec for the tortilla soup.

                                1. I feel I paid $5.00 for a salt tasting.

                                  1. Used to be my fave until I discovered Juan Pollo. (local so-cal chain)

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Oh Robin

                                      I agree. Juan Pollo is like El Pollo Loco, but tastier, in my opinion. I love their potato salad.

                                    2. I didn't know they had mac & cheese. Interesting.

                                      My standby is the Pollo Bowl, which is pretty healthy -- beans, rice, chicken, & salsa. They used to make a Nacho Bowl which was less nutritious but darn tasty. It's off the menu but you can ask for it, they'll make you one if they've been around long enough to remember how.

                                      1. We get take out sometimes. It's good you can see the chicken freshly cooked and cut on the spot right after you order. They're pretty accomodating around here, too -- ie, they'll give you more lettuce for the salad, or give you two legs instead of one leg and thigh.

                                        1. I actually like the chicken ceasar bowl, not too bad with some flour tortillas and salsa.

                                          1. wow i've been wishing they'd expand out here (NC)
                                            I make my own version at home--rotisserie chicken from the supermartket, tortillas, etc.

                                            1. I've been an on-off patron since they opened what i believe was the first US branch (Alvarado at 6th, Los Angeles) and the menu had the following choices:
                                              A. Whole Chicken B. Half-chicken AND
                                              1. Flour tortillas 2., Corn tortillas
                                              I think they had corn-on-the-cob, and beans (pinto, pot-style) beans as the ONLY sides;
                                              I KNOW they had only "the house salsa"
                                              and you could pick your soda.

                                              They've been bought by a major corporation, expanded drastically, and tried to do too many things, in too many places to do them well. You can no longer buy half a chicken, with tortillas and salsa, at most PL locations; they're busy trying to sell you burritos and sides.

                                              The chicken was better, 30 years ago....


                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: silverlakebodhisattva

                                                You can still buy just the chicken and tortillas. It isn't on the menu anymore, but they will sell it to you. That's what we do, just like we did years ago when that was all they had. Chicken, tortillas, avocado salsa and house salsa. Mmm...

                                              2. As far as fast food goes, I consider it to be pretty palatable-- that is, when the chicken isn't completely over-cooked and dried-out from the lack of turnover. It kinda sucks when it's too salty as well...

                                                The salsas have usually been pretty good, but they seem to have gone a bit...watery of late at a couple of locations.

                                                But I've had the same problems at non-chains, so I suppose it can't be too surprising. That's what I get for not having a decent kitchen :/

                                                1. My dad told me years ago when i moved down here that it was "approved by the American Heart Association". The comment stuck, but i rarely ate there until more recently. I admit the $1 loco menu is my dining of choice when i'm there. 2 churros, taco al carbon, loco salad (love that ciliantro dressing), cheese quesadilla, and brc burrito hit the spot nicely...and all for a buck each!

                                                  oh the pollo bowl is good too...

                                                  1. Not a fan..had some not so fresh items. Much rather prefer Charo Chicken or Costco or Ralphs for cheaper.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: justagthing

                                                      Yeah, I agree completely, just buy a costco chicken and some tortillas and you have a much better meal lots cheaper.

                                                    2. the only thing half decent abt. it is their guacamole salsa, which despite being extremely watered down, is pretty flavorful compared to the salsas served in the other fast food joints - overall, very mediocre food