Golden Pride Chicken – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Golden Pride restaurant near UNM.

The Golden Pride restaurant near UNM.

For years Albuquerque’s cruiser culture has made Central Avenue a favorite destination for showing off souped-up cars and causing windows to rattle and eardrums to hurt from the pounding bass in audio systems that reverberate far and wide.  My friend Carlos who understands urban subcultures more than most tells me cruising Central Avenue isn’t solely about seeing and being seen.  It’s about fried chicken, more specifically Golden Pride, Barbecue, Chicken and Ribs (Golden Pride for short).  Central Avenue  has a Golden Pride location on the Duke City’s far west (a couple blocks east of Coors) and one on the far east side (just west of Eubank).   It’s about 12 miles as the crow flies from the east side Golden Pride to its sibling on the west, but it could take you a good half hour (longer in rush hour) to drive that distance.  That’s a lot of good cruising.

A third location on Juan Tabo may be off the cruiser’s beaten path, but it’s close to family neighborhoods which flock to this poultry palace when in the mood for fried fowl.  Still another location, on Lomas just east of University, is an institution for UNM students, faculty and staff.  Students appreciate the free high-speed wireless internet connectivity and even more, they appreciate the restaurant’s low prices.  It’s a departure from the college student food pyramid which typically ranges from vending machine offerings to Red Bull, coffee, sodas and ramen noodles galore.

The counter where you place your order at the UNM area Golden Pride.

The counter where you place your order at the UNM area Golden Pride

Owned by Larry and Dorothy Rainosek, the good folks who bring us the Frontier Restaurant, Golden Pride offers both fried and BBQ chicken.  It also offers the Frontier’s famous sweet rolls, as good a reason for getting up in the morning as there is.  Golden Pride has been serving Albuquerque since 1973 and carries other Frontier items: green chile stew, tortillas, carne adovada and posole, for example.

Just how popular is this restaurant?  According to an Albuquerque Business Journal article published in 2003, Golden Pride has grown at an average of 20 percent per year.  The four restaurants go through 35 tons of green chile and seven tons of red chile powder each month.  Sure, that article was published more than a decade ago, but if traffic is any indication, there certainly appears to be no surcease in sight to the popularity of the Golden Pride brand.

An order of ribs and two sides: coleslaw and spicy beans.

An order of ribs and two sides: coleslaw and spicy beans.

That same article reports that more than fifty percent of Golden Pride’s daily meals are served before 11AM and that its patrons consume about 160,000 burritos each and every month.  These are staggering numbers, but they don’t completely spell out just what makes this restaurant so very popular.  I surmise Golden Pride’s popularity is based in part on convenience (four strategically placed locations), value (reasonable cost for hardy portions) and quality (many items are quite good).  These aren’t unknown secrets to success; they’re the hallmark of most restaurants which stand the test of time.

The Golden Pride concept is based on Gil’s Fried Chicken, owned and operated by Larry Rainosek’s brother Gil, in San Marcos, Texas.  The name must be reflective of the golden coating on every piece of fried chicken served at the restaurant. The fried chicken is somewhat thickly coated but doesn’t have the “run down your arms greasiness” of Church’s or other chain purveyors of poultry.  It’s a juicy chicken (and quite good) once you get past that coating (which I surmise seals in the juices).  

Award winning burritos are a staple at Golden Pride.

Award-Winning Burritos Are A Staple at Golden Pride.

The BBQ chicken definitely has a pronounced smoky taste (even though you won’t find a smoker on the premises) and is even better than the fried chicken.  Moist and delicious, the BBQ chicken is offered with a thin, tangy and just ever so slightly piquant barbecue sauce which is wholly unnecessary, but quite good.  White meat pieces include chicken legs and thighs which most restaurants prefer to breasts because breasts tend to be rather on the dry side.  Both the fried chicken and the BBQ chicken are available in quantities of two, three, four ten, sixteen or twenty pieces.  Value meal options include your choice of two sides and even if you opt for chicken only, you still get the restaurant’s yeasty rolls.

Several sides, ranging from passable to very good are available.  You can actually taste the cabbage and carrots on the coleslaw at Golden Pride which is not drowning in salad cream as you might find at KFC.  Mashed potatoes, on the other hand, are so thick, they’re difficult to pry away from the spoon–a pity considering the chicken gravy is actually quite good.  The green beans with bacon are my Kim’s favorites.  She must really like them because she doesn’t share them with me.

Award winning burritos are a staple at Golden Pride.

Fried Chicken with Sides of Mashed Potatoes with Gravy and Green Beans with Bacon.

If a restaurant serves 160,000 burritos a month, it’s got to be doing something right.  Duke City Fix readers have an idea what that might be and rave about the #9, the restaurant’s best seller.  The #9 is crafted with bacon, cheese, egg, hash browns and green chile–a combination that just might make anyone a morning person.  The #9 is indeed an excellent burrito.  My brother, an architectural engineer at Sandia, tells me that breakfast runs yield more orders of the #9 than any other burrito.  For folks on the run, it’s got another thing going for it–it’s as portable as a burger (but better, by far, than most).

The carne adovada adovada burrito is engorged with plenty of shredded pork marinated in Golden Pride’s chile.  While the pork is tender and the chile is pleasantly piquant, there’s a pronounced bitter aftertaste I surmise to be resultant from a surfeit of oregano.  It’s not an endearing quality for an otherwise very good burrito.  Of all chile impregnated dishes, carne adovada generally has the most mild, never acerbic flavor.

BBQ Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

My opinion of the Frontier-Golden Pride carne adovada isn’t universally shared.  Author Michael Stern who co-wrote the definitive 500 Things To Eat Before It’s Too Late listed the Frontier Restaurat’s (ergo, Golden Pride’s) carne adovada as the third best carne adovada in America. Calling it “the great bargain carne adovada–no less delicious for its $1.99 price–is a burrito at the Frontier in Albuquerque,” which he described as having “just enough chile-infused meat intense enough to turn the tortilla that wraps it the color of sunset.”

Tacos are available in either a fried hard corn shell or a soft flour tortilla.  The soft flour tortilla based tacos are about as large as Golden Pride’s burritos.  My favorite is engorged with ground beef, green chile, cheese, lettuce and tomato–pretty much the standard taco.  As for the hard-shelled tacos, you can’t go wrong with the chicken tacos.  The chicken is moist and shredded.

A carne adovada burrito from Golden Pride.

A carne adovada burrito from Golden Pride.

Whether or not Albuquerque’s cruiser culture frequents Central Avenue because of Golden Pride Chicken is irrelevant. Golden Pride is beloved by the cruiser in all of us who want good food at value prices.

Golden Pride Chicken
1830 Lomas, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 242-2181
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 7 January 2016
# OF VISITS: 9
RATING: 18
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Chicken Gravy, BBQ Chicken Value Meal, Fried Chicken Value Meal, #9 Breakfast Burrito, Green Chile Stew, Green Beans with Bacon, Sweet Rolls

Golden Pride on Urbanspoon

Stroud’s Restaurant & Bar – Fairway, Kansas

Stroud’s Restaurant & Bar, the home of P-A-N fried chicken since 1933

Kansas City is often referred to as the “world’s barbecue capital.”  With more than 100 barbecue restaurants, its reputation for outstanding barbecue is known far and wide.  It’s not as commonly known that Kansas City can also strut its stuff about its fried chicken.  In fact, Travel Channel television host Adam Richman has joked that KC actually stands for “killer chicken.” The killer chicken tradition started with Stroud’s Restaurant which not surprisingly, began in 1933 as a barbecue shack in Kansas City.  On Independence Day a few years later, founder Helen Stroud added skillet fried chicken.  It sold out immediately and has been on the menu ever since.  Ironically, barbecue is no longer on the menu.

Fittingly both of my visits to Stroud’s have been during the month of September which the National Chicken Council has designated “National Chicken Month.” For more than twenty years, the Council has increased its promotion of chicken sales during September, turning what was once a slow month as the summer grilling season slows, into a month in which sales are booming. John T. Edge, author of Fried Chicken: An American Story praises this strategy, advising that “as the air gets crisper, so should your food.”

The welcoming interior of Stroud’s Restaurant & Bar

Fried chicken is one of America’s comfort food favorites with a timeless appeal that evokes nostalgic memories of home-cooking and family gatherings.  In a poll administered by About.com, respondents listed among their favorite 25 comfort foods, four of which are served at Stroud’s: chicken pot pie, chicken soup, fried chicken and mashed potatoes.  It’s the home-style cooking aspects of dining at Stroud’s that has made it a family favorite for generations.  Meals are served family-style in capacious bowls meant to be passed around between friends and family.  Even the red checkered tablecloths seem to signify a welcoming warmth.

Even as America’s culinary diversity and the sophistication of diners’ palates continue to grow, so does the appreciation for home-style cooking, comfort food and especially fried chicken. While it may seem the only fried chicken you can find throughout the fruited plain is served by the Colonel and his eleven herbs and spices and other chains, you can still find home cooking style restaurants serving chicken if you look.  The pantheons of pan-fried chicken were even celebrated in 500 Things to Eat Before It’s Too Late: and the Very Best Places to Eat Them, a terrific tome by Michael and Jane Stern who advise that “if you’re looking for the most effulgent chicken dinner in the land, there’s only one place to go: Stroud’s of Kansas City, Missouri.”

Chicken Noodle Soup

In 1998, Stroud’s was one of the inaugural winners of the James Beard Foundation‘s “America’s Classics” award which honors legendary family-owned restaurants across the country.  Considered the Academy Awards of the culinary world, the James Beard awards have been earned by a very exclusive “who’s who” in the competitive culture of cuisine.  Stroud’s has also been recognized by the Wall Street Journal, Gourmet Magazine, Bon Appetit, Playboy Magazine, Conde Naste Traveler and Esquire Magazine among others.  It’s the type of restaurant to which diners make pilgrimages, perhaps signifying the need for diners to reconnect with memories of comfort food favorites.

So, what is it that makes Stroud’s unique and special?  Sure, its chicken is pan-fried in a heavy cast iron skillet to a crispy golden hue, but there’s so much more than that.  One of the restaurant’s mottos is “we choke our own chickens,” a double-entendre laced reference to the fact that Stroud’s still does things the old-fashioned way with no short-cuts, using the same recipes as in 1933.  Missouri grown chickens are hand-trimmed before they’re dredged in a simple batter mix of flour, salt and pepper (who needs eleven herbs and spices?).  Each piece of chicken is only partially submerged in the skillet and receives plenty of individual attention as it fries on the pan.

Fried chicken (all white meat, all breasts)

The results are a light, delicate crust.  This is not a greasy, heavily-breaded crust, just one that seals in moistness and flavor, a flavor ameliorated by a well-seasoned skillet.  Each piece of chicken cooks for about ten minutes per side and all chicken is made-to-order so this is no fast food chicken joint.   Bite into the crust and you’ll soon be reaching for napkin because this is one beautifully juicy chicken.  After his first bite of Stroud’s chicken, Adam Richman called it “whole body-licking good,” meaning it is several orders of magnitude better than the Colonel’s finger-licking good chicken.  There may be no better chicken in America.

Stroud’s strains its grease from the skillet in which the chicken is fried to extricate the cracklings (residual fried bits from the chicken) for making their gravy.  This gravy is transformative, the very best I’ve had on mashed potatoes anywhere.  Laced with pepper, its prevalent flavor is that of the fried chicken from which the cracklings were obtained.  Cracklings are, after all, concentrated flavor.  Fresh soybean oil, two cups of flour and a splash of milk  followed by a vigorous wisking are what it takes to make this smooth, thick ambrosia.  It’s gravy so good, you’ll want to drink it up and smother everything in it.

Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Green Beans

Chicken dinners are served family style with three pieces of chicken–one breast and two cook’s choice pieces.  As an old-fashioned “have it your way” institution, Stroud’s also offers all-dark meat and all-white meat options, including an all-breast option that features three beautiful “D” cup breasts (these are not your chain variety “A” cup breasts).  In addition to the aforementioned chicken and gravy, a chicken dinner comes with your choice of potato (mashed, baked, French fries, cottage fries), your choice of a side salad or chicken noodle soup, green beans and cinnamon rolls, all served in heaping helping size on overflowing bowls.

Before your dinner is delivered, your side salad or chicken noodle soup arrive.  The chicken noodle soup is among the best chicken noodle soup I’ve ever had.  It’s redolent with the flavor of chicken, both from the thick shards of chicken and the broth in which those shards swim.  The perfect accompaniment for gravy, of course, is mashed potatoes.  Stroud’s mashed potatoes are the real thing, not some reconstituted flakes out of a box.  They’re stick-to-the-spoon thick, not light and fluffy.  The pan-drip made gravy is also rather thick, but neither are lumpy.  The green beans are made with bacon which imparts its inimitable flavor upon fresh, thick, perfectly prepared green beans.  Dip the green beans into the gravy and you’ll swoon at the resultant deliciousness.

A basket of housemade cinnamon rolls

It’s your choice as to whether the basket of cinnamon rolls is delivered with your dinner or afterwards.  Savvy diners will opt to have these golden beauties delivered with their meal to make sure they have room in their stomachs for them (plus they’re great with the gravy, too).  The cinnamon rolls are yeasty and buttery with a coating of cinnamon and absolutely no icing.  Stroud’s menu may have alternative dessert options, but most people are too sated to ask.

Stroud’s elevates chicken from the level of comfort food to the level of sublime sensation.  Best of all, it’s prepared in a homey environment by very attentive servers who treat you as a welcome guest.

STROUD’S RESTAURANT & BAR
4200 Shawnee Mission Parkway
Fairway, Kansas
(913) 262-8500
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 7 September 2012
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 25
COST: $$
BEST BET: Fried Chicken Dinner

Stroud's on Urbanspoon

El Pollo Picante – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

El Pollo Picante in the Journal Center area

Pollo asado, marinated grilled chicken, has been a staple in Mexico for years, but save for those pockets within metropolitan areas heavily populated by scions of Mexico, it hasn’t made significant inroads throughout the fruited plain. Mexican grilled chicken restaurants seem to fly under the radar, unbeknownst to much of the local populace outside the Mexican neighborhoods in which they’re clustered. Many grilled chicken shops–even in Albuquerque– operate in ramshackle, lilliputian buildings not much larger than roadside stands.

In the 1980s, El Pollo Loco, a Mexican grilled chicken chain expanded into the United States, launching in about a dozen states including New Mexico. Today, the chain operates in five western states (Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Texas and California) as well as in Illinois (and in episodes of Breaking Bad), but despite expanding beyond its grilled chicken niche to include burritos, quesadillas, salads and more, it hasn’t been able to compete significantly with the popular pseudo Mexican concept restaurants.

Empty tables at 11:30AM. It’s almost criminal for a restaurant which services such good chicken!

After Albuquerque’s erstwhile El Pollo Loco restaurant–which operated on San Mateo (in the location which currently houses Siam Cafe)–closed, it would be more than a decade before another Mexican grilled chicken restaurant would open in a heavily-trafficked commercial area.   In May, 2012, El Pollo Picante launched in the Market Place at Journal Center just a few doors down from Torinos @ Home. My friend Ryan “Break the Chain” Scott, a discerning diner, was one of the restaurant’s first guests, enjoying it so much, he’s returned several times…and he brought me with him.

El Pollo Picante is owned and operated by Steve and Cindy Lee, a genial Korean brother and sister who know what they’re doing behind a grill.  Whether you’re visiting for the first time or have become a regular, you’ll receive the type of personalized attention you can’t help but appreciate.  Cindy will take your order while Steve mans the gas-fired grill visible from the counter where you order, evoking the captivating aroma of marinated chicken being expertly grilled.  To anyone who’s ever enjoyed Mexican grilled chicken, that aroma is an aphrodisiac, a siren’s call.  It’s an irresistible lure.

A half chicken, beans, rice, pico de gallo and salsa

The aroma is a preview of poultry perfection.  It’s mouth-watering truth in advertising.    The marinade penetrates deeply into the meat, turning the skin an ochre hue and imbuing it with a seasoned flavor.  If you’re of the habit of discarding grilled chicken skin, this skin will break you of that habit.  It’s crispy without being dry and it’s thoroughly delicious.   The hot flames of the grill sear in all the spices and tangy goodness of the marinade. A half-chicken order (dark meat) gets you two wings, two legs, two thighs and two thighs.  As with all chicken–grilled, roasted, rotisseried, baked or fried–the most moist and juicy pieces are the thighs.  You can also request all white meat if you prefer.  The breasts are snowy white, tender and surprisingly moist.

At the risk of committing sacrilege, El Pollo Picante’s Mexican grilled chicken blows away the chicken at El Pollo Loco and the Chicken Flameante at Taco Cabana. Similar to those restaurants, Polo Picante chicken is accompanied by Mexican inspired sides: beans, Spanish rice and corn tortillas. These sides are wholly unnecessary. They’re also not especially good…maybe the caliber of airline food (not the peanuts and pretzels). Luckily they’re served with pico de gallo and salsa. These are good and do greatly improve the flavor of the beans and rice.

Teriyaki Beef

When it first opened, El Pollo Picante’s menu was pretty much limited to Mexican grilled chicken, but has since expanded to include teriyaki chicken and beef as well as a curry plate, all Korean style. My friend Señor Plata and I are applying our charm to convince Cindy that the menu should also include KFC. No, not that greasy chain chicken. KFC stands for Korean Fried Chicken and it’s the rage among savvy diners in Los Angeles. The pairing of Mexican grilled chicken and KFC would make El Pollo Picante a formidable poultry presence.

While researching the blogosphere for information about El Pollo Picante, I happened upon a refreshing new food blog called “Once Again We Have Eaten Well.”  Written by Edward Sung (a long time friend of this blog) and his lovely better half Hannah Walraven, Once Again… is a delightful change of pace from the mundanity of most food blogs.  The blog employs a novel conversational approach so entertaining and realistic, you’ll  find yourself transported to the table with Edward and Hannah. It’s almost as good as being there with them.

El Pollo Picante
7600 Jefferson Street N.E., Suite 5
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 1 August 2012
1st VISIT: 30 July 2012
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 19
COST: $
BEST BET: Half Chicken

El Pollo Picante on Urbanspoon

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