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Feb 2, 2009 10:47 PM

Lunch at El Pollo Dorado, Salinas

Last month Mom and I popped into El Pollo Dorado to grab a quick lunch in the middle of our errands. This was my first time here though my mother used to come here from time to time in the past. It’s under the same ownership as Tico’s on South Main St. but offers a chicken-centric menu. At early lunch hour, the grill was lined up with half chickens at various stages of doneness presumably timed to the upcoming demand.

At the counter I ordered and paid for the Medio pollo especial (half chicken special) with rice, whole beans, salad and tortillas, $8.95; Mom had the whole fried tilapia with french fries, salad, and tortillas, $7.95. I also got an atole, $2. A self-serve salsa bar is fully stocked with tasty and very spicy condiments. We tried the incendiary green avocado salsa, pico de gallo, tomatillo salsa, very hot salsa roja flecked with chili flakes, roasted tomato salsa, and ranch dressing. The bar also has pickled jalapenos and ketchup.

My mother had asked me to order her fish “not dry”, which I did and I heard the counterman call that back to the fry station. And, it was indeed cooked just right, crunchy and golden on the outside and still juicy and moist inside and not desiccated. The fries weren’t anything special, but we did enjoy the hunks of the fish wrapped in the tortillas with a squeeze of lime, the salsas and some of the lettuce. I also munched on the crunchy tail and some of the golden brown fins.

I’d asked for whole beans rather than refritos. These were served on the side with some of the greaseless soupy liquid and were quite delicious flavored with some bits of chorizo and onion. Rice was good too with a fresh chili kick and toasty character. If you look at this photo, I can tell you that the chicken was as good as it looks. Golden brown well-salted and freshly grilled skin, moist and tender flesh, all with a nicely charred essence.

My atole was good too. Flavored with chocolate and a hint of vanilla, the cup was quite large for the price.

All in all, the food was quick, brimming with authentic taste, wholesome, and inexpensive. El Pollo Dorado (“the golden chicken”) is located across the street from KFC, and if you’re craving chicken served fast, I’d recommend a turn in this direction instead.

El Pollo Dorado
701 E Alisal St, Salinas, CA 93905

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  1. Way to go Melanie.

    One of my favs.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Food Tyrant

      My mom had my brother take her back to El Pollo Dorado that weekend, she liked it that much.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        The following weekend Mom had me take her back without mentioning that this was her third trip!

        She ordered the shredded beef taco and shredded beef enchilada instead of the fried fish because she forgot to bring her chopsticks . I thought my sample of the beef was quite tender and tasty (and, yes, the avocado salsa is incendiary).

        I had the grilled half chicken, which came with whole beans without my requesting them. Didn't see the handwritten sign for atole on the counter until I went to pick up our food so I missed out on that.

        1. re: Stephanie Wong

          I'll mention that chicken tacos are two bucks. Haven't had one but a taco would be a way to try the chicken with a minimal investment.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            I love that your mom is such a chowhound! Mine was too.