When Pollo Campero opened its first location in Los Angeles, I heard that lines were around the block. When I heard news like that, my curiosity was definitely piqued, but time passed by and I soon forgot about until I started working in Long Beach and found out there was a Pollo Campero location down the street from me. Fate was definitely working on my side, so I decided to check it out for lunch one afternoon.
I walked through the doors, up to the counter and after a quick glance at the menu, I ordered a three piece fried chicken with rice and yucca fries. While I was waiting, I loaded up on some salsas at their salsa bar. When the plate was finally placed in front of me, I have to say that it looked good and it smelled good, but did it taste good? The answer was a resounding YES in big capital letters.
The skin was wonderful and there was just enough batter to form a “cracker crust”. What I meant by that is when I pulled the skin from and off the chicken meat, it seemed wafer-thin and crispy like a cracker. The chicken itself was tender and juicy and very well seasoned, which doesn’t translate to being spicy, just full of flavor. A little peppery. A little bit of a kick. All of which made me one happy chicken eater.
The chicken was definitely the star of the plate– the yucca fries would have been a complete thumbs up if they hadn’t been overly salty. The rice really didn’t really add much to the meal. Overall, I was happy and was looking forward to making Pollo Campero as one of my regular lunch stops.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it back until a few months later, but I was still anticpating a great meal. Too bad, I didn’t get it. I wish I could share pictures, but as luck would have it, I didn’t have my camera with me. I ended up ordering almost the same thing I ordered the first time, but this time I replaced the rice with black beans, which were a definite improvement over the rice. However, the yucca fries, while wonderfully crispy, were still too salty. I would have been fine with whatever sides I ordered, as long as my chicken had been up to par. Oh my, it wasn’t and saying “Oh my” is putting it mildly.
The chicken didn’t have enough batter and it didn’t seem like it was fried for that long, which made for a skin that was more droopy than crispy. They also cut back on the seasoning. There just wasn’t as much of a flavor punch as before. It was just a disappointing looking and tasting piece of chicken. These are the times when a picture speaks a thousand words and if you are able to see what I saw, you’d know exactly what I was talking about. In the end, I left shaking my head, wondering what the heck happened. I felt like they were trying a new recipe and I somehow became their test subject.
Would I go back to Pollo Campero? I would, but this time I’d check out another location, if only to see if that last experience at the Long Beach restaurant was just a fluke. For now, I’ll just try to remember that one good meal and hope that it can be repeated elsewhere.
To see pics, go to:
281 E. Willo Street
Long Beach, CA 90806
If you’re into ethnic food, check out the Pleasure Palate blog for more tasty discoveries!