I kept driving by this place and smelling smoke. It always smelled like a picnic at the park, one of those big family reunions where the crazy uncle has gone slightly overboard with the barbecue pit, but in a good way.
Sometimes when I would drive by El Pollo Norteño, it would look as if there was actually a large celebration taking place in the parking lot in front of the restaurant, where a portable, makeshift barbecue grill sent huge plumes of smoke into the traffic on First Street.
I haven’t seen the outdoor grill in the parking lot lately – it seems maybe they’ve moved it to the back – but you can still smell the smoke from the street most days.
They serve a lot of tasty food here, but there’s really just one reason I stop: the mesquite grilled chicken. The chickens are small, so it’s easy to underorder. I’ve learned to buy the whole chicken, just so I can have a couple of pieces left over to take home. The chicken is juicy and tender on its own, which is how I like to eat it.
Who needs beans and rice when you can eat more chicken? But I also like pulling it apart and dunking it into the restaurant’s bright green salsa, made with fresh jalapeños, and wrapping it in hot flour tortillas.
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