I was cruising in my truck on fast-moving 28th Street with my windows down, taking in fresh air and much needed sunshine, when I detected the wonderfully unmistakable scent of burning poultry flesh. Like a hound dog on the prowl, I followed the scent to the bustling El Pollo Cachuchon (1101 N.W. 28th St., 817-624-2868). As if the intoxicating aroma didn’t tell me I was in the right place, the plumes of white smoke billowing from the top of the structure like there was a new pope in town that my instincts were correct. I was greeted just outside the front door by a collarless lazy dog taking a sunbath, totally oblivious to all the action happening within. He slowly glanced up at me with an eyebrow raised as if to say “don’t mind me,” as I strolled past.
My first step through the door was a sensory blast: the walls were bright yellow, the television was blaring, the aforementioned chicken smell was even stronger inside. As I was scanning the menu behind the walk-up counter, I glanced through a giant glass window and saw an open flame grill. Every square inch was covered with chicken carcasses, skin blistering and heavily dusted with a vibrant-looking red spice rub.
A polite young server at the counter took my order. The kid was a tornadic storm of activity. I watched as he rang up orders, cleaned tables, ran food, and restocked napkins. With the smell of chicken still in memory, I went straight for the grilled bird taco ($1.25), the pastor( $1.25), pork that’s slow roasted in pineapple, and chicharone($1.25)., crispy pig skin. I sat in front of the TV, which was playing “Blue Lagoon” with Spanish subtitles.
My mouth was watering both from watching a young Brooke Shields and the arrival of my tacos. They were served with Mexican oregano and crushed red pepper, which I thought was a nice touch, and also topped with cilantro, white onion, and lime on the side. My first instinct is to spritz the trio of tacos with lime. This would have worked in theory, except after applying “beast mode” strength to the lime, only dust and lime fragments lazily settled on my plate.
I tried the chicken first and the breast meat was dry as all get out. I wish I’d instead ordered the more flavorful, dark leg meat that can withstand an aggressive open flame while remaining tender and juicy. Luckily the bright, sweet salsa roja could make even that charred bird taste like a masterpiece. The pastor had a nice luau pig aroma. It was very tender and had a great balance of sweet, salt, and fat with a velvety finish. The chicharon was my favorite of the three. The fried pork skin was beautifully rehydrated in a tomato sauce with a generous portion of the same Mexican oregano that was on the table. The flavor and texture reminded me of a good menudo.
Full and satisfied I navigated my way through the tiny dining room back to my truck. On the way to out, I glanced down at the same dog who greeted me. It had an expression on his face that said “move along.” Who was I to argue? I just hope he lets me back in again soon.