Like cigars and swaddles, the key to the burrito is the efficiency of its wrap.
And I will testify that after all these years, Pollo Rey's burritos have never failed me. They are tight. They do not fall apart, nor leak. Leaned up against the side of a cafeteria tray, a Pollo Rey burrito will not droop.
And this feat is not accomplished by some poor man's origami trick; there are no fat joints of tortilla to bite off. The stuffing is plentiful and well-distributed within. The foil helps keep it all together, but as foil ought to, it tears off evenly and orderly, down to the very bottom.
Of the six burritos offered, my favorite is the fish ($6.25, grande, do not ask this reviewer for chico prices, please). Cradled in the left hand, a bottle of El Yucateco (green habanero hot sauce) at the ready in the right, eating the Pollo Rey fish burrito is an exercise in rhythm: peel, shake, bite; peel, shake, bite.
For years, I would not order the El Cheapo ($4.25, grande)—some combination of not wanting to be cheap and not wanting to consume a brick of beans and cheese, even if equally well-wrapped. But due to peer pressure and pure economics, I now go for the Cheapo every third Pollo Rey visit these days. It is easily supplemented with the jalapenos and chile-soaked carrots from the salsa bar, and is filling and nutritious. Beans are nutritious, right?
While the left side of the menu also contains tacos and quesadillas, all of which are equally fresh and healthy and well-assembled, it's the other face of Pollo Rey that is of interest. Pollo Rey is, hands down, the king of rotisserie in Boise.
In some places—Frankfurt comes to mind—the local rotisserie is the place to eat. Businessmen and downtown players start lining up at 11:45 a.m., place their orders, get a meal ticket, pay the cashier and stand with their beers or sodas waiting for their trays of hot, dripping chicken parts.
Pollo Rey has perfected this atmosphere to a tee. The Eighth Street corner is a de facto meeting spot, a place where people throw down their trays and dine elbow to elbow with their fellow citizens. A quarter chicken dinner—leg and thigh at $4.95 or breast and wing at $5.75—comes with corn tortillas and two, count 'em, two sides.
The value pack, however, is where it's at. For $10.75, you can feed an average-sized family 1.5 times.
But this place just keeps giving: They also have stuffed baked potatoes. Almost an afterthought, the stuffed potato is my newest personal ordering trend at Pollo. Chicken or steak ($5.75) or veggies ($5.45) loaded on top of a perfectly baked potato. It may not be a perfect protein like the beans and rice, but it's a satisfying winter lunch.
Pollo Rey makes for happy. The colorful tile. Yolanda, the cheerful hostess who always asks about my kids. The red booths. The high ceilings. The unpredictable sound track. The cafeteria trays.
It is not the kind of place to linger over a meal—it can be chilly and busy and suffers from a bit of a fish bowl effect—but it is the kind of place where all the food is comfort food and where every guest is rey of his or her own pollo.
—Nathaniel Hoffman thinks people should add rey to the end of everything, rey.
Pollo Rey is a Boise-based Mexican rotisserie with two locations. The downtown restaurant has a spacious interior with red vinyl booths and tile-topped tables and big picture windows that look out on the bus mall on Idaho Street The other location sits on the plaza across from Edwards 21. On a particularly blustery day, I met friends at the Overland location.
I blew in, sat down at a booth and took in the brightly colored ceramic tiles in turquoise, reds and yellows, and kites hanging from the rafters. A moth-shaped kite swaying overhead reminded me of the Mexican jumping beans my editor brought back as souvenirs from a trip to New Mexico. At first, I was unsure about the jumping beans, knowing a moth was incubating inside the brown vibrating shell, but soon I came to think of the living creatures as pets and cared for them as such.
Pollo Rey is different from other Mexican restaurants because of its diverse menu that keeps carnivore and vegetarian customers satisfied with a variety of choices. Pollo Rey offers standard fare such as burritos—con pollo, pescado or carne asada—quesadillas, soft tacos and a selection of salads but also offers stuffed baked potatoes and quality, fire-roasted chicken. Folks at BW HQ speak of their love for the Pollo; I'm just not much of a chicken person. I wanted to order from outside my comfort zone, but my adventurous intentions fell by the wayside when, at the last moment, I went for sustenance in its simplest form: Pollo Rey's signature bean and cheese burrito, the El Cheapo, which comes chico (small $3.65) or regular ($4.25). The beauty of this big burrito is in its simplicity—a thick flour tortilla wrapped around saucy pinto beans and jack cheese.
The real winner on the menu, though, was the fish tacos ($2.95). Two fresh corn tortillas serve as the base for breaded and grilled tilapia loaded with onion, cilantro and cabbage that gave a crunch to the otherwise soft taco. A drizzling of delicious smoky chipotle sauce pulled the flavors of the whole taco together. One of my lunch companions loved the fresh salsa bar stocked with hand-cut salsas like a chunky red tomato, onion and cilantro, and a soupy, spicy green concoction made with tomatillos, jalapeno peppers, onion, lime juice and lemon slices. Thankfully, she knows a good dentist because not even a trace of lemon juice was left after she repeatedly sunk her teeth into the thick yellow rinds. With more food than we could eat in one sitting, including the fish tacos, a carne asada quesadilla ($3.95 chico) packed with wonderfully spiced meat, and a couple of El Cheapos, we expected a hefty bill, but though our lips were pursed from the lemons, our purses weren't sucked dry.
Unable to ignore the emphasis on rotisserie chicken, I ventured to the downtown location and tried the chicken in a couple of forms, including a chicken taco. Many people may like sauteed vegetables on their tacos. I, however, am not having it. Carrots and other such vegetables have their place, but not in my Mexican food. I also gave the quarter chicken dinner ($5.75) a go, ordering a breast and wing with Mexican rice, black beans and fresh salsa. The breast was a little dry and the rice and beans didn't have much flavor, but a scoop of fresh salsa provided a spicy remedy.
For those looking to pluck a fresh, quality rotisserie chicken out of the inferno oven, Pollo Rey keeps the fire burning hot. Perhaps someday I will shake up my staunch repertoire of food choices and like a Mexican jumping bean, break out of my shell in search for new experiences, like trying sauteed vegetables on my taco. But until then, it's just me and my El Cheapo.
—Elaine Lacaillade is lachanaphobic. But she's working on it.