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New Chicken Place in Chelsea

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Yesterday, I was cutting through Chelsea and there was a traffic jam complete with police details trying to help out because it looked like there was a new restaurant opening that attracted lots of people. I remember the word Pollo in it's name. It's a free standing building where a roast beef place use to be a few blocks from the bridge that goes to East Boston. There was a line of about 60+ people waiting to get in. The line came out the door and snaked down the street. Any info?

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  1. El Pollo Loco, probably. A So-Cal-based chain of pretty decent citrus-marinated chicken.

    Used to frequent them during my Los Angeles college days.

    1. Pollo Campero a central american phenomenon, if you look in the Spring 09 Openings there is more info. The local franchise is related to the folks running Qdoba. I guess they were right that they were opening in April and thanks for posting this :-)

      4 Replies
      1. re: itaunas

        A central american phenomenon that's related to Qdoba? Kinda like Daniel Boulud teaming-up with KFC.

        Weird, but I'll try it.

        1. re: Bostonbob3

          I've been to the location in Jackson Heights and it is certainly Qdoba-esque in its cold corporateness. I thought the chicken was OK, certainly nothing significantly better than the other latin chicken options we've got right now.

          1. re: Bostonbob3

            No the ownership of the rights to the local franchise is the same group with Qdoba franchises. The parent company is of Guatemalan origin, but the chain is probably strongest in El Salvador. Its been a common sight for folks coming back from El Salvador to bring Pollo Campero chicken on the flights, this is how I have eaten it on a couple of occasions and the chicken there was slightly different than what I was served in the McLean Virginia location. From what I recall the chicken served in the US is prepared centrally by the US corporation, probably partially cooked, and shipped frozen to the stores where its finished. Not too different from other chains. If you want more information or background, there is plenty written about Campero in English and Spanish on the net.

            There are a couple of local Guatemalan and Salvadoran restaurants doing Campero style chicken (we have posts about this going back several years). The most recent was when Tapatio in Somerville reopened, which I still haven't gotten around to trying, but in speaking with someone about their chicken I found out the Pollo Campero was opening.

            Campero does have some limited parking, but that area is prone to traffic snarls. Decent bus service from East Boston/Revere/Everett/Haymarket, about a half-mile walk from the Chelsea commuter rail stop. A lot of hounds already check out nearby Katz's if you get there during their hours, but John's Pizza is worth checking out and the nearby El Chalan does pollos en la brasa (charcoal roasted) for a good comparision between south and central american chicken.

            1. re: itaunas

              "The parent company is of Guatemalan origin, but the chain is probably strongest in El Salvador"

              Thats a silly comment. Have you ever been to Guatemala? Theres a Pollo Campero every 3-4 blocks in the city and at least 2 in every major city in Guatemala. And, Guatemala being like 3 times bigger in size, no way could the presence of Pollo Campero be stonger in El Salvador.

              As stated in the company's mission statement, Pollo Campero is one of the biggest latin food chain in the world (though they arent really a world wide company like McDonalds, B.K, and etc).

              I have been to the new facility in Chelsea and it has been crazy, maybe they SHOULD recall themselves the real "pollo loco". I drove by saturday while it was raining and people were standing there like nothing, sunday which was the better day of the 2 was just plain insane. The drive-through line was all the way to the first set of lights after you cross the bridge from east boston into chelsea and the walk-in line was curved onto the side street. I heard that sunday there was a 3-4 hours waiting time.
              The next site for a pollo campero will be east boston, though in the spanish newspaper "El Mundo" hinted the possibility of having one in lynn as well.

        2. I drove by the place last weekend and it looked just about ready to open. Glad to hear it's open and attracting some crowds.

          Here's a link with a bit more info on the place:

          http://www.tuboston.com/article-1855-...

          1 Reply
          1. re: hiddenboston

            There was a traffic jam for a few blocks from the opening. I'm waiting a few weeks before I try it.

          2. I think it's in the old Riley's Roast Beef location next to Katz Bagel Bakery. The address is 115 Park Street Chelsea. Hopefully I can try it when it's not crowded. I'm always looking for a good fried chicken place.

            4 Replies
            1. re: buffet king

              That's exactly where it is. I drove by it on my way to Katz's last weekend.

              1. re: buffet king

                It's not fried, it's like "a la brasa" style marinated/roasted. You can get some maduros and yuca and stuff to go with it, and there are various salsas and horchata too.

                1. re: buffet king

                  I tried to go by today, but there were still lines out the door (tents so you didn't get wet) and couldn't stay. Incidentally I also noticed Royal Fried Chicken in Dorchester (haven't been by there in ages) offering their chicken (not a full franchise). As Luther says its not breaded fried chicken (although I think they are offering a battered extra-crunchy style, some rotisserie style offerings, sandwiches elsewhere, experimenting with things or more american flavors, but KFC doesn't have beans tostones, horchata...), there is the marinating and some kind of broasting process -- one of those industrial processes, but part of the process was frying. I definitely wouldn't consider it "a la brasa" though... the local restaurants are basic fried though.

                  1. re: itaunas

                    Oh yeah, right, it's kind of greasy but not battered.

                2. We were in Chelsea last night and drove past Pollo Campero at around 9:45. The line was crazy--must have been 30 to 40 people there. And police everywhere as well, directing traffic. I think I'll wait for the hype to die down before checking it out.

                  1. This is huge for a lot of people. I know a couple of salvadorans who would bring a bunch back with them whenever they'd visit home.

                    1. This is becoming the line watch thread, but I went by early today to see what time they actually open and if the third time would be the charm (the hours aren't on their myspace page). In any case, they either open at 10:30 or 11 not certain which, and there was a line of about 10 people already by 10:10. So I went to El Dorado bakery around the corner...

                      1. Anyone who has tasted Pollo Campero care to compara the Machu Picchu Charcoal Chicken which is also prepared "a la Brasa"? Had another one last week - again, that's just a superb bird.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Bob Dobalina

                          Take my suggestion above to try it and walk 2 blocks to El Chalan to compare (I plan to). Or next time after Machu Picchu check out Tapatio in Somerville (their chicken has been on my list to try and at this rate, I think I will have it before campero).

                          Although some Camperos do offer rotisserie chicken and other items, the big differences is its fried chicken pieces and its specifically a fast food restaurant. So you don't order a half chicken, you order a combo or number of pieces, with options for leg/thigh and mixed (includes wings and breast), plus some have more battered versions and there are nuggets, etc. Its marinated (and I thought partially prepared before delivered to stores, but some places say "never frozen" so I could be incorrect) with that injected. I have had it twice in Virginia (with sides) and a few times brought from El Salvador (chicken only). The sides were pretty forgettable but the chicken tender and not dried out... Portion size pretty small, these aren't monster overgrown chickens. Personal overall preference would be Peruvian rotisserie chicken in a full service restaurant with more sides and aji sauce, but I really want to try the local Campero!

                          1. re: itaunas

                            FYI, the Globe ultimately beat us hounds to the comparison (and ultimately was very thorough, although they didn't include anything in Lynn or a Brazilian chicken place (Cabana)). BTW the new Habanero Mexican Grill in Allston is among the Salvadoran restaurants doing Campero style chicken (it sounds an awful lot like a Morales brothers restaurant, but no idea)...

                            http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/food/...

                        2. I live around the corner, and every time I drive past, both the walk-up and drive-thru lines are out of control and being directed by cops. Last night, however, the drive-thru was only about 10 cars deep, so I decided to give it a try.

                          An hour and 10 minutes later, here's what I learned:
                          1. The fried chicken is extremely juicy -- it actually spurted out when I took a bite. Very tasty, and much better than any fried chicken I've had before. The portions are tiny, though -- not exactly a lot of bang for your buck.
                          2. The grilled chicken is also very juicy and tender, and I liked the fact that they give you fresh lime wedges to go with your meal. The portions are larger than the fried version, but the skin was a bit rubbery. Still, great quality chicken.
                          3. The campero beans (the default side to any combo meal) are great! They're floating in a bath of pork juice, fresh herbs and spices, and honestly taste rather fresh for a fast food side order.
                          4. The sweet plantains were a disappointment. They come in large chunks (four pieces to a "personal" serving size), and my order was cold, mushy, and overly sweet.
                          5. I tried to order the Horchata, but was informed the machine was broken.
                          6. The service is awful...and part of the reason the line is so long. My order was ready to go and sitting in the window, but I sat there for over 5 minutes as the cashier chatted with staff, counted money for the register, and just generally ignored me. It was the most bizarre thing I've even seen at a fast food window -- they're usually so eager to get you moving along. Judging by the size of the line, this must be par for the course for Pollo, which is too bad.

                          All in all, if the line we're so ridiculous, I'd definitely stop by again for the chicken and beans. In the meantime, I'll be grilling my chicken at home.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: lehall2006

                            I work on Arlington street in Chelsea, should I even bother trying to go for lunch or will it just take too darn long to get anything?

                          2. An article on Pollo Campero on the front pages of the Metro section of today's Globe:
                            http://www.boston.com/news/local/mass...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: BBHound

                              Now the crowds will never die down enough for me to try it :(

                            2. We drove past Pollo Campero on our way back from Jeveli's in East Boston last night around 7:45 PM, and it was still as crazy as ever. Police detail out front, line out the door, cars everywhere. I wonder if/when the hype will finally die down? I really want to try it!

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: hiddenboston

                                Will you do a separate post about Jeveli's. I know they've been around forever, but we always seem to be pursuing Latin eats.

                                1. re: Taralli

                                  I will. I've actually been to Jeveli's countless times, but this is the first time I've gone in awhile. It was as good as ever in an old-school "whaddya want honey" kind of way.

                                2. re: hiddenboston

                                  It's different but I highly doubt it the hype is worth it based on yelp reviews of all the other locations. When Popeye's first came back to MA in Brockton, there was a similar onslaught. I'll try it next week and post review.

                                  1. re: joebloe

                                    I tried the fried chicken today (not a single person was eating/ordering the grilled chicken) and it's not worthy of the hype. It's no better than your KFC's or Popeye's or Church's or your corner shop's wing zing. It's really good fried chicken with a mild curry taste combined with a few central american sides dishes.

                                3. Drove by this place on Sunday morning - line out the door at 11:30 a.m.

                                  On another note, stopped in to Katz bagels for the first time and had pretty much the rudest service imaginable - as my friend said, she was looking for the camera because it had to be a put-on. The guy behind the counter was so openly hostile that all I could do was laugh - pretty much the "Bagel Nazi." The customer who came in as we were leaving yelled, "What the hell are you complaining about now?" to the surly server - I guess that's how you roll in Chelsea. Talk about the local flavor!

                                  Darn good bagels, though I will patronize Kupels or Rosenfelds rather than deal with that again, at least until the memory fades.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                    Have the lines gotten any better at pollo Campero?
                                    I've had the same experience at Katz's. The first time i was there, I asked if he could cut the bagel in half for me. I had bought a container of cream cheese and was going to put it on myself. He snapped "NO, I don't do that. I'll give you a knife and you can do it!" He definitly needs an attitude adjustment. If there was another place in that area that had bagels as good, I wouldn't have gone back either. I don't like Kupels as much but at least they're friendly.

                                    1. re: catsmeow

                                      A few weeks ago, the guy behind the counter at Katz's used the f-word to describe the customer in front of me after he walked out (whado I have all f--kin day to take this f--ing guy's order?). Real classy and charming, huh? BTW, I still like Rosenfelds bagels better.

                                      1. re: hiddenboston

                                        That guy has been running back and forth making bagels and serving customers for ..well forever. He can sniff out people that arent regulars..and Im pretty confident he ..in his words "doesnt give a f- - - " if you dont like his attitude or you go to Rosenfelds..(which by the way are in no way better)

                                        I used to own a place and employed around a dozen Guatemalans who loved Pollo Campero and used to make chicken in that style for themselves and other staff for lunch...and always talked about hoping one would open in Ma...this place is really for them..the chicken is juicy and has some nice flavor..(try to go around 2ish if you can..still a wait but you miss the lunch rush and beat the dinner rush we waited about 15 mins)but really its a piece of home for a ton of Latin workers and residents...

                                        1. re: jvish

                                          We were clearly NOT regulars. I REALLY pissed him off when I asked for an Everything bagel. LOL.

                                        2. re: hiddenboston

                                          I finally went to Rosenfelds and picked up a dozen bagels. I got their around 9:45am and they only had 3 egg bagels left. I have to honestly say that I like the bagels at Rosenfelds better that Katz's. I only wish that Rosenfelds was closer. I guess an early morning Sunday ride to Newton wouldn't be too bad. I should have a bought 2 dozens of bagels and froze them. I have been going to Katz's for years and I'm not surprised by the rudeness of the guy behind the counter. He wants to get the customers in and out very quickly. He's definately not customer service friendly.

                                          1. re: buffet king

                                            A friend picked up some warm Katz's bagels for me the a couple of Sundays ago, so I can't comment on the rude service (though she did mention something about consistently obscene language there, so apparently that's not a myth).....I have to say, I wasn't that impressed. I only tried the raisin bagel, which is what I always have, and I honestly thought it was fairly flavorless. Yeah, it was warm, so that's always nice, but it was really nothing special. Could have used a bunch more raisins and maybe even some cinnamon flavor (but i think it's just a "raisin" bagel, not a cinnamon raisin..) For years I've been planning on driving to Chelsea on a Sunday am for these bagels; that urge has passed --I honestly think Brueggers are better. Just not impressed.

                                            1. re: buffet king

                                              I like Katz not only because the bagels are usually pretty warm, doughy and tasty, but because when I go in I feel like I am stepping into old Boston. The father, I presume, is very serious and bagel-oriented--his passion's not for the people. I happened to catch him on an episode of Chronicle awhile back, and the man can talk for hours about the art of making a bagel. He's not quite so chatty with the customers. The sons, however, are a bit friendlier.

                                              It helps to go in with a clear idea of what you want and avoid any wishy-washiness, but I've never had bad service that I can speak of. They even let me in once after they'd turned over the “Closed” sign and gave me an excellent deal on the last batch of bagels. I'll keep going back.

                                              Oh, and try the pizza bagels--they make a great little Sunday lunch!

                                          2. re: catsmeow

                                            Yes the line is much shorter a Pollo Campero now compare to last week, when 60 people lined up outside in the cold rain.

                                        3. http://www.boston.com/ae/food/restaur...

                                          The Globe just posted their taste test of the various pollos in the area.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: avial

                                            The wait is a lot shorter now. I went last Saturday around 2 pm. The wait was about 15 to 20 minutes. Everyone there was ordering the fried chicken. The line went pretty quickly because there were already trays of chicken and yucca fries available. I had just the chicken plate of two wings and one drumstick for $3.99. If you order the combo with drink and sides, it is $6.99. You can substitute one of the other sides such as yucca for $.30. The chicken was juicy and better than KFC.

                                            1. re: bulldog69

                                              I live right down the street, and lately the Campero congestion has significantly decreased. The police detail’s been gone for awhile, and the line is much shorter. Now would probably be a good time to try the place if you’ve been itching to go but were waiting for the crowds to die down. I’ve eaten there only once, and tried only their cole slaw (I’m vegetarian), but my other half thought the chicken was pretty good.

                                              1. re: Moxie Monroe

                                                i will try it at the end of the summer when there s/b no major wait
                                                places like that ain't worth the crowds and long lines
                                                life is too short to waste in line for just chicken

                                                1. re: foodperv

                                                  Last week I passed by there at about 11;15AM and there was only 1 car at the drive thru and no line coming out the door. I didn't have time to stop.