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Pollito Con Papas – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Pollito Con Papas in its new home on Gibson  just east of San Pedro

I think a rotisserie is like a really morbid ferris wheel for chickens.
It’s a strange piece of machinery.
We will take the chicken, kill it, impale it and then rotate it.
And I’ll be damned if I’m not hungry because spinning chicken carcasses
make my mouth water. I like dizzy chicken.
Mitch Hedberg

Comedian Mitch Hedberg may have meant it in a funny vein, but it’s no joke that Americans are finding rotisserie chickens  not only sexy and sumptuous, but convenient, flavorful and oh, so easy to prepare.  The latter three were reasons most cited by consumers for liking rotisserie chicken.  A National Chicken Council survey revealed that in 2007, 52 percent of all respondents had purchased a rotisserie chicken within four weeks prior to being interviewed.   In 2008, an estimated 750 million rotisserie style chickens were sold with more than 200 million of them being proffered by restaurants and food service outlets. 

Since 1980,  the per capita consumption of poultry–and not just rotisserie chicken–in America has increased significantly.   According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Chicken Council, Americans are eating more chicken than ever.  The per capita consumption of chicken has risen from 48 pounds in 1980 to almost 83 pounds in 2010, a 72.5% increase.  This increase is attributed to consumers desiring to eat leaner proteins.

One of the best reasons to “break the chain”–great restaurant owners like Monica and Rene Coronado

In the coastal nation of Peru, restaurants and roadside stands featuring pollo a la brasa (an entire chicken prepared on a rotisserie charcoal oven) are as ubiquitous and beloved as burgers are in America.  In the world culinary stage, this is significant because Peru (yes, Peru!) has been widely recognized by the cognoscenti as a delicious dining destination and a culinary trend-setter.  In fact, Frommers Travel Guide recently proclaimed Lima, Peru as the “top food and drink destination for 2012,” declaring that “Lima is now drawing a new flock of visitors who travel all the way to Peru just to eat.” Peruvian cuisine. In 2005, Bon Appetit declared Peruvian “the next hot cuisine,” extolling its “vibrant ceviches, crispy, spiced rotisserie chickens and packed-with-flavor empanadas” then encapsulating its declaration with “this is one cuisine we could eat every day.” 

What’s surprising is not that the culture-rich cuisine of a small, multi-ethnic nation rarely on the world’s stage is receiving such acclaim, it’s that it’s taken so long.  Peru’s culinary traditions, after all, began in pre-Columbian times. Peru was home not only to the oldest known civilization in the Americas (the Norte Chico civilization flourished as early as the 30th century BC) but later to the largest civilization in the Pre-Columbian Americas–the Incan empire.  Immigration melded the culture and cuisine of the Spanish, Basque, African, Moorish, Sino-Cantonese, Japanese and in the 19th century, the Italian, French and British with Peru’s indigenous peoples, the descendents of the pre-Incas and Incas, to combine the flavors of four diverse and distinct continents.

Chimichangas engorged with Peruvian style chicken

With our typical “land of mañana” attitude, Albuquerque hasn’t been as quick to embrace Peruvian cuisine as have larger American metropolitan areas–not that we’ve had much opportunity.  In the year Peruvian was declared “the next hot cuisine,” the Duke City’s first (and only) Peruvian restaurant both opened and closed.  Albuquerque–you’ve got a second chance!  In 2011, Rene and Monica Coronado launched Pollito Con Papas on the southeast intersection of Broadway and Avenida Cesar Chavez.  In August, 2012, the Coronados moved their restaurant to Gibson Avenue, just east of San Pedro.  The specialty of the house is Peruvian style chicken.  It’s addictive!

The Coronados have the pedigree to make this delicious concept work.  The vivacious Monica is originally from Peru.  Her face practically glows with pride as she discusses the cuisine of her place of birth and the successes of her family in the restaurant business.  One cousin owns the fabulous and famous El Pollo Rico Restaurants in the Arlington, Virginia area.  El Pollo Rico is one of the highest rated rotisserie chicken restaurants on the entire East Coast where Peruvian style chicken has been all the rage for years.  One of her brothers is the chef at a highly regarded Peruvian-Spanish fusion restaurant in Berlin, Germany.

Half a Peruvian style chicken

The Coronados are new to the restaurant business, but they did a lot of homework prior to launching their eatery.  During their most recent visit to Peru (where Rene admits to having gained 12 pounds), Rene visited several rotisserie chicken restaurants, gleaning as much information as he could from the owners.  Because local ordinances in Peru tend to be somewhat more liberal than those in America, Rene quickly recognized he would have to modify his method of  preparing rotisserie chicken.  He wouldn’t, for example, be able to bring onto the premises and use the 18 outdoor grills–ranging from smokers to barrel-style–he’s been using for years to prepare chicken in his backyard. 

One area in which the Coronados don’t have to compromise in the least is in the uniquely wonderful marinades and sauces used in the preparation and serving of the chicken.  More impressively, they do not serve frozen poultry–apparently an anomaly because city inspectors were nonplussed  over the fact they had never before seen a restaurant open without a freezer.  Each chicken is simultaneously brined and marinated for at least ten hours in a bath of several ingredients (vinegar, cumin, salt and pepper are discernible, but that constitutes fewer than half the ingredients in the marinade).  The chicken is served with a creamy “green sauce” made with jalapeño, cilantro and other ingredients which give it addictive properties.

The papitas–hand-cut French fries

The entire Pollito Con Papas menu is comprised of whole chickens; boneless, skinless marinated chicken thighs; fresh, hand-cut wedge fries with ketchup, and chicken engorged chimichangas all served with that wondrous green sauce.  By design, the restaurant does not serve tortillas, pico de gallo, or other popular extras.  Rene’s objective is “to keep it super simple but incredibly delicious.”  “We just give our customers a taste and explain how our chicken is prepared and how we are able to provide two whole chickens, fries, and creamy sauce for twenty dollars due to the fact that we have minimal waste. Where else can you feed four people good quality food for less than five dollars a person-our price includes tax.” Where else indeed?

Pollito Con Papas’ new home as of August, 2012 is in a much more heavily trafficked street and in a much more capacious building with generous parking than its predecessor.  One thing that won’t change is the friendliness of the affable owners.   When my friend Ryan Scott, the dynamic host of the galluptious Break the Chain radio program and I discuss what we love most about mom-and-pop restaurants, near the top of the list is the warmth and hospitality of mom and pop themselves.   The Coronados didn’t need years of restaurant experience to understand this formula very well!  It comes from the heart!    

Boneless thighs–marinated for eight hours

To ensure the highest level of freshness, Rene advises patrons to call in whole chicken orders two hours in advance so they’re cooked specifically for them and not sitting on a warming plate.  Many of the restaurant’s repeat visitors have responded very well to this practice.  Rene is contemplating ways to be even more responsive to customers calling in pick-up orders, perhaps even instituting curb-side service. 

If you don’t happen to call in your order two hours in advance, there’s still plenty on the menu that will make you very happy.  You might want to sample a bit of everything on the menu as we did.  Consider the chimichangas your appetizer. Reminiscent of egg rolls on steroids, the chimichangas are sliced diagonally and are engorged with the restaurant’s wonderful marinated chicken.  There’s no scrimping on the chicken which is so very finely chopped that the chimichangas become very dense and tightly packed.  You’ll want to deluge the chimis (an Arizona diminutive) in the creamy green sauce which has a nice piquant bite New Mexican fire-eaters will appreciate. 

External signage lists the menu in Spanish

The half-chicken–breast, wing and thigh–is an even better way to enjoy the marinade in which the chickens are prepared. The lengthy marinade process ensures deep penetration of flavors so it’s not just the skin which absorbs the ten ingredient melange of flavors.  The brining and marinade process ensure every single bite is redolent with deliciousness while the process of slow-cooking makes a moist, delicious, non-greasy and very healthy chicken that doesn’t rely solely on salt for its flavor (as grocery store rotisserie chicken tends to do).  The fact that each chicken is fresh and never frozen further seals in flavors and gives the chicken a texture you won’t find in poultry previously frozen (which tends to become desiccated after thawing).  The accompanying papitas are fresh and hand-cut on the premises.  They’re Texas thick and golden hued, better with the green sauce being a better condiment than the ketchup. Peru, by the way, is where potatoes were first domesticated.  There are more than 4,000 varieties of potatoes grown in Peru today so it stands to reason Pollito Con Papas fries are among the very best in Albuquerque.

The boneless, skinless marinated thighs are a best bet for bone-phobic diners.  Chicken thighs, not breasts as is the common misconception, are the most moist, tender and flavorful piece on a chicken.  These thighs are oh so mouth-watering moist and the flavor profile is a nice balance of spiciness, savoriness, and peppery qualities with discernible hints of sweetness and tanginess, too.  The discernment of flavors is an adventure in pure deliciousness. 

There is nothing fancy about Pollito Con Papas. It has none of the over-the-top veneer, flash and panache of the well-financed corporate chains.  What it does have is a wonderful product–likely the very best chicken you’ll have in New Mexico.   This is four-star quality food prepared by very nice people and served in the most humble surroundings.  Whether you order it for take-out or enjoy it at the tiny eatery, the operative word is enjoy and you WILL enjoy it immensely.

Pollitos Con Papas
6105 Gibson, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
505-765-5486
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 13 April 2012
1st VISIT: 26 November 2011
# OF VISITS: 3
RATING: 22
COST: $
BEST BET: Boneless Thighs, Half Chicken, French Fries, Chimichangas, Inca Kola

Pollito Con Papas on Urbanspoon

  • Kelly Koepke says:

    This location is truly unfortunate. I drive by it at least 3 times a week, and cannot count the number of restaurants, tire shops and clothing stores it has been in 10 years. Here’s to hoping they can last there, because I remember that other Peruvian restaurant. It was dynamite.

    November 28, 2011 at 11:53 AM
  • R says:

    I am so excited to hear about this place. Exactly one year ago (seriously), my cousin and his wife took me to El Pollo Rico in Arlington you mentioned above and I’ve been craving this ever since!! (They had two sauces, a white and a green, that we mixed together.) I’m hoping to stop by this place soon. Thanks!!

    November 28, 2011 at 1:15 PM
  • Sr Plata says:

    Sensei took me to this awesome restaurant today and I left a very happy man. The couple who own it spent time talking to us and made me feel like I was home away from home; extremely very friendly people. Then I sample a selection of their ware starting with chicken chimichanga which was packed with their marinated chicken of which I dipped into their special green sauce that was excellent. We then shared 4 pieces of chicken marinated in some delicious spices that had a hint of garlic, cumin and other seasoning that could be found in the heart of Peru. We also sampled some chicken thighs that were basted in that marinade and oh so tender, unbelievable. Then out came the french fries, or should I say Peruvian Fries which were large longitudinal cuts from a whole potato made very crispy with seasoning; probably the best fries I have had in a long time. This is a must for those here in New Mexico. My only recommendation is to provide some Peruvian dessert (Sensei suggests alfadores) as I needed something sweet to follow. Oh, also tried some Peruvian software drink (Inka Cola), a mixture of creme soda and coke, sweet but good. Thank you Sensei for bringing me and making me a happy eater!

    December 2, 2011 at 4:52 PM
  • Lola says:

    I can still taste the spices from the chicken. What an explosion in my mouth. My meal was just delicious and I will be coming back. The owners do the best job at making you feel like your family and the food was ready so quickly. This kind of chicken is very unique and different. You have a very good product and I know it will become very popular. Thank you very much!!!

    December 5, 2011 at 8:05 PM
  • Edgar says:

    I went there tonigh and the chicken is really good. The papitas are burn with no flavor. I will go again just for the chicken.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:34 PM
  • Sara Chavez says:

    Hi Gil, my name is Sara I work with your sister in Arlington, she gave me your link, I am originally from Peru, and actually lived 37 years in Virginia, firstable I am very glad that you included with your review a little bit of history about Peru, and you did excellent on the information, Peruvian food is very diversed, we have many dishes from sea food, and all diferent types of meats, also in 2005 I purchased the Bon Apetit magazine where talk about “next stop Lima Peru”, I have been to Pollo Rico since the first day they opened, is very simple, the menu is limited to chicken, papas o lluca and salad but is worth the wait and you do wait specially around lunch, I know the owner’s before they even had pollo rico, when I go back home my family and I stop there on the way to the airport to get our pollo a la brasa, I know that if Pollito con Papas makes the chicken the same way as Pollo Rico they will do well. Next time you come by Arlington let me know and I can make a peruvian dish for you. Great article I have forward it to my family and friends in Virginia. Thanks

    December 30, 2011 at 12:45 PM
  • Michelle Meaders says:

    Pollito Con Papas – Albuquerque, New Mexico

    The caption under the first picture says, “Pollito con Papas on the southeast intersection of Broadway and Avenido Cesar Chavez”
    Then further down you say, “In 2011, Rene and Monica Coronado launched Pollito Con Papas on the southeast intersection of Gibson and Avenida Cesar Chavez.”

    The first one is correct, except that it’s Avenida. The second one mentions two parallel streets.

    March 19, 2012 at 10:19 PM
    • Gil Garduno says:

      Thank you, Michelle. I have corrected my SNAFU. Despite my spatially challenged directions, I hope you stopped at Pollito con Papas for their excellent chicken.

      March 20, 2012 at 8:07 AM
  • Antonio says:

    I traveled to Peru for a month when I was 18 (9 years ago) and have been craving the food ever since. I was very happy when I found out a Peruvian restaurant had opened in Albuquerque. I was even happier to find out it had opened just up the street from my house! The Peruvian chicken is far better than I expected from my nostalgic memories of eating chicken late at night in Lima and Cuzco. I’ve been going back almost once a week for 2 months now. It really is an amazing place despite the limited menu.

    March 27, 2012 at 11:29 PM
  • Noe says:

    Went there on Saturday and had the thighs. One word…AWESOME!!! I’m looking forward to trying the whole chicken (rotisserie and grilled).

    Rene and Monica were very inviting and friendly. As we were the only patrons there, parking was not an issue, but with only 4 regular spots, I can see how it might be. Talking to Rene, he mentioned that they are really trying to make a niche for themselves with the take-out special (2 whole chickens and fries for $20). He also mentioned they might be offering the thighs as a take home and grill yourself option. I would love this for summer cook-outs!!! I really hope they make a go of it, because warm welcoming people like Rene and Monica should be successful.

    Bottom line – the chicken is awesome and owners like Rene and Monica are the epitome of how restaurant owners should treat their patrons!

    March 28, 2012 at 5:17 PM
  • Ryan Scott says:

    I had lunch with Gil here today. We both had the chicken chimichanga. It was crispy, full of moist chicken, and delicious. The Peruvian “green sauce” was bright, creamy, and a great compliment to both the chicken and also the fries.
    I am thinking that as faithful readers of this blog, we should all go en masse next week and support this fantastic little restaurant. Pick a day and time. I’m game!
    Who’s in?

    April 13, 2012 at 5:46 PM
  • Jen says:

    Ryan, I would love to connect with other foodies who read this blog. We should form a little dinner club.

    April 21, 2012 at 10:52 PM
  • Di says:

    The chicken was outstanding, the green sauce was curiously yummy and addicting, the potatoes were cooked exactly the way I like them: dark, crispy, and just a little greasy – but GOOD greasy! I love the simplicity of this place and hope that it survives. The family that owns it were so warm and welcoming, I felt like I was at my tio & tias house eating a homecooked meal…can’t wait to go back I just might go today!

    June 8, 2012 at 10:53 AM
  • Jen says:

    They are moving to 6105 Gibson SE – opening on August 15! I thought they were closed for good but I called them and was so happy to find that they’re just moving!

    August 13, 2012 at 11:12 AM
    • Wendy says:

      So happy that Jen put up the move information. When I spoke to Monica and Rene about their move 2 weeks ago, they were both so excited after a hot summer in the old location. We will definitely be at the new place on Gibson as soon as it opens!

      They have a Facebook page, too, so make sure and Like it. We want to keep this treasure in Albuquerque.

      August 14, 2012 at 2:03 PM
  • Ken says:

    I will have to try this. I just moved to ABQ from Arlington. If the chicken is close to El Pollo Rico’s, I will be in heaven. To those in Arlington buy the orange Picante sauce at Crisp and Juicy, and use it with El pollo Rico’s chicken. There is nothing better on the planet.

    December 24, 2012 at 10:39 AM

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