9/27/06 | El Pollo Loco Dollar Menu
[ Currently Eating: Chili Ham Cheesebread! ]
This one has been kicking around in the Cheap Eats drafts for nearly 4 months now. It’s the El Pollo Loco Dollar Menu which was recommended by more than a few readers, including Cybele from CandyBlog. I’m pretty familiar with El Pollo Loco and in the past have frequented their chicken joints as much as three times a month.
El Pollo Loco is interesting in that although it probably qualifies as fast food (and there’s a drive-thru), I think of it more as a normal sit-down restaurant but with fast-food prices. Their flame-grilled chicken is a welcome change if you get tired of Church’s, Popeyes or KFC. They occasionally have pretty good deals on bulk family chicken – one current special that I like for parties is the 11 pieces of legs and thighs for $7.99.
A side note: I find their commercials with that smarmy guy a bit on the racially insensitive side… but I’ll not get into that now.
Anyhow, for some reason, I never ventured into Loco Dollar Land. Their lineup is a bit more interesting than the usual fast food joint 99 cent Jack In The Box menu. They’ve got a Taco al Carbon (Chicken Taco), BRC Burrito (Bean, Rice Cheese), Cheese Quesadilla, Chicken Taquito with Avocado Salsa, Loco Salad with Creamy Cilantro Dressing, Two Churros (dessert) and a choice of either a flame grilled Chicken Leg or Thigh (note: the pic I took from the site months back included the choice of thighs but the more recent pic does not. Too bad, because I felt that was one of the better value items.)
I had a heck of a time trying to get nice pictures, because it was late at night but also because I was so hungry my hand was shaking like a leaf in a windstorm. For this trial run, I ordered 3 items from the dollar menu: 1 Taco al Carbon, 1 BRC Burrito and 1 Chicken Thigh.
Let me talk about the items I didn’t order first. I’ve had the quesadillas, and they’re not too bad – much better than Del Tacos or Jack In The Box’s. I suspect that’d be a decent dollar item. No idea how the chicken taquito would be, but I think they could’ve put two instead and then omitted the avocado salsa… since you can get that free at the salsa bar anyhow! Their Salads are surprisingly decent and I would have got that item – except that it doesn’t include any meat in it. I’m not a fan of cinnamon sugar coated Churros (it’s like a doughnut stick, you see them selling it as amusement parks) but that might be good for you’ve got a sweet tooth.
The Taco Al Carbon was pretty standard – if you want quantity and don’t care about getting flame broiled chicken in your tacos, you should probably stick with Taco Bell, Del Taco or JITB. It’s two corn tortillas wrapped around diced chicken with cilantro and onions. As usual with these mini “tacos”, depending on the size of your mouth this taco is probably 3-4 bites. (If you’re a big mouth you can probably do it in 1-2 bites, hehe.) Taste is decent, but quantity just isn’t there for 1 buck.
The BRC Burrito is standard as well. I’ve had better, but the size is a bit more substantial than the taco at least. The beans in the burrito vary, but mine was packed with their pinto beans which aren’t the mashed up refried variety you get most of the time. That’s rather nice. The spanish rice is also the same version that they serve as a side dish for combo meals, and that’s also halfway decent.
The Flame Grilled Thigh is pretty good for a buck. I like it over the drumstick, but that’s just me. I’m also not sure if they currently still offer it on the dollar menu. It’s not the cheapest thing, but hey it tastes like chicken because it IS chicken. If they could somehow offer a drumstick plus a wing for a dollar (interesting that they don’t offer wings) I’d be the first in line. One thing nice about these dollar items is that you can get your normal combo meal and just add a salad or dessert for a buck more. Boy, I sound like I’m on their PR team. Maybe I can replace that annoying, eyebrow-arching man in black in their commercials…
So, the individual items didn’t score extremely high. But I think the good variety of the dollar menu is what makes it attractive. That, and the salsa bar… their salsas are pretty decent and I always pack a little extra of the spicy creamy avocado sauce to take home and put on omelettes.
Last interesting note: they actually have recipes to use up the leftover El Pollo Loco chicken at home.
Price: $1.00 each
Found At: El Pollo Loco
Cheap Eats Score: 8/10