Saturday chicken


A COUPLE OF WEEKS ago, our favorite roast-chicken joint changed ownership. We lunched there virtually every Saturday for four years before heading downtown to sell our tasty pastries on the big plaza.

The new management had changed enough stuff that we decided to go elsewhere. That’s elsewhere you see in the photo. It is not Antoine’s or Galatoire’s, but the chicken is quite good.

It’s humble, to state it mildly. It sits next to a tire-fixing business and almost under a pedestrian overpass crossing the highway that heads to the state capital 40 minutes away. This place likely has a name, but I can’t tell you what it is. After four years at the previous restaurant, I can’t tell you its name either.

I don’t care about such stuff. I only care about the grub. My friend Don Cuevas, who writes a very good blog, can tell you the name of the previous place, and the names of the owners too. He’s a detail man and sociable, unlike me. He also once said the previous joint was the best restaurant in town, which was quite silly.

How can a restaurant that has only one item on the menu be the best restaurant in town? It did, however, serve some mighty fine roasted chicken. At times, Cuevas slips into hyperbole.

Roasted-chicken outlets are enormously popular in Mexico, and they are all over the place, almost on every corner. It may be one of the best reasons to live here. Roasted chicken rivals tacos.

There are basically three ways in which they are served, and the term roasted may not be strictly correct, but I use it as a catchall term because, again, I don’t really care about details. Cuevas knows the details.

Our previous Saturday eatery cooked chicken on a barbecue grill. A second popular way to prepare “roasted chicken” is on a huge, horizontal, revolving spit. The third style is what you see in the photo above. The young man is looking into a bottomless, metal box on the ground. Inside are chickens skewered upright on sticks that are stuck vertically into the dirt surrounded by hot coals. This style is less juicy than the other two methods.

Against the back wall is a homemade wood-burning stove atop which tortillas are cooked after the dough is smashed flat with a hand-pushed tortilla smasher. Rice is prepared there too. The old woman who does all this is off to the left at the moment. She’ll be right back. Click the photo for a closer look.

This roasted-chicken joint may well become our permanent Saturday replacement for the old spot. We don’t know yet — jury’s still out. The chicken-on-a-stick style is my least-preferred of the three methods, but it’s still quite good. And, God knows, these people need our dough. It’s a family business, and they’re neighbors.