Overall I’m inclined to agree with Carl about the crack metaphor: it’s overused, and unless you punched your mother in the face or [redacted] someone’s [redacted] and then let them [redacted] in order to get it, then NO, that chicken ISN’T like crack.
When Tom Sietsema went and checked out El Pollito in Crystal City, however, that’s exactly the comparison someone used in front of him in line. Crack, that is, not the punching your mother stuff. My darling wife and I were delighted to see this review, since the place that used to occupy this storefront looked like it had about 9 customers over the six-month period it was there. Overall we won’t frequent a restaurant that doesn’t seem to do some business – old food is just not conducive to a good dining experience.
So when we went and got some takeout there on Friday evening we were a little concerned to walk in and find the place completely empty. However the rotisseries are right there in plain view and a simpler menu like this makes it less of a concern to me than a larger menu and a closed kitchen, so we went ahead and picked up our order.
Which was simply -eh-.
There was nothing wrong with the offerings, but there was nothing particularly right about them either. The supposedly awe-inspiring chicken was acceptable and nicely juicy, but not notably more so than the whole bird you can get at any area grocery for $7. The marinade and spices on the skin did little to improve it over a Safeway bird; a few shakes of dried oregano would get you 80% of the way there.
The black beans and rice were acceptable, and the beans had a nice tooth to them that the long-simmered soupy beans many latin restaurant serve lack. Personally I enjoy both style, but this was a nice change of pace albeit a tad dry. My wife’s corn was more of a corn salsa, good if uninspired. The plantains were fine, though as a Miami boy I prefer them cut larger and well caramelized. These were sliced into coins and only cooked long enough to make them crispy.
Overall this was merely an acceptable result. For the $14 that a pair of 1/4 white combos with 2 sides cost I’d have been just as happy with a roaster from Harris Teeter and some sides from their salad bar. It certainly wasn’t an experience to incline me to pick them again when there are excellent Thai, Italian, Pizza, Pub, and Ethiopian options within 200 feet.
Maybe it’s better if you punch your mother to get it.
El Pollito is located at 513 23rd St. South in Arlington, VA. Closest Metro stop: Crystal City (Blue and Yellow lines). For more information, call (703) 769-0790.