Owners Ron and Diane Burns opened El Pollo Gordo in 2008 with a mission to provide, "fresh and healthy food at a reasonable price." I admit when I first visited the restaurant, located across from the Wagner Mall, I anticipated fast food of dubious quality. Drawn in by "dollar taco" sandwich boards dotting the front lawn like maps to an unexpected culinary treat, I was met with a pleasant scene of golden rotisserie chicken, a brilliant salsa bar and endless combinations of chicken meals, salads, burritos and tacos. Ahh, the tacos...Silver dollar pancake-sized white corn tortillas hugged carne asada and succulent chopped chicken topped with cilantro-spiked salsa. The taste and presentation reminded me of a Southern California or Baja Mexican delight. Satisfying but not greasy and with just enough piquant heat.
Ron and Diane, Central Oregon residents since 1988, have developed El Pollo Gordo around the idea of freshness. Everything on the menu is cooked in small batches three to four times each day, from beans to salsa to rice. They never use lard in their preparation and their juicy rotisserie chicken is hormone and additive free.
With a brisk and devoted lunch crowd, El Pollo Gordo now wants to stress that they are also open for dinner every night until nine. Their quesadillas, burritos and other usual suspects are as satisfying as any I've eaten, but the true star of the show is the Gordo Chicken Meal. Ranging from $6.25 for a two-piece to $9.25 for four pieces, the plate is laden with tortillas, pico de gallo and a choice of two sides (pinto beans, rice, potato salad or coleslaw). And these are generous, old-school portions - not fussy, feel-hungry-an-hour-later rip-offs.
Adding to the not-just-for-lunch atmosphere is the colorful, Hispanic-inspired décor and the addition of margaritas, domestic and imported beer, and wine. One of my favorite bonuses is that El Pollo Gordo delivers. For a 15-dollar minimum charge, you can wait in anticipation from the cozy confines of home for any item on the menu to come to you. Sounds like a great dinner and a movie date night idea.
So drop your fast food assumptions of El Pollo Gordo - trust me, they are wrong - and follow the siren call of the dollar tacos, then, for less than ten dollars, splurge on the soon-to-be-famous chicken meal.
El Pollo Gordo
1939 NE 3rd St. 541-318-7883
Open daily 9am to 9pm