Review: Pollo asado worth a drive to new spot
Note: This is a Just a Taste review, which the Express-News does soon after a restaurant or bar opens to give our first impressions.
GARDEN RIDGE — Here’s a perfect lazy weekend afternoon for y’all. Round up the family or a few friends, hop in the car and take a leisurely cruise up the historic El Camino Real — better known as Nacogdoches Road to San Antonians.
Just after you cross the Comal County line, roll down the window and start sniffing the air. Within a couple minutes you’ll pick up the savory aroma of chicken grilling over mesquite coals, and a second later you’ll roll up on Garden Ridge’s newest restaurant: Pollos El Gallo.
The newcomer is located in the former home of Brown B Que, and the property still feels like a proper South Texas backyard cookout, with a rangy playground featuring a large wooden jungle gym crawling with giggling kids, picnic tables on a covered patio packed with happy guests noshing down on grilled delights.
But forget the brisket. This spot is all about pollo asado, that classic, Northern Mexico-style grilled chicken with the iconic orange glow, and they’re serving up a version that makes the drive more than worthwhile.
On the menu: The pollo asado here ($14.95 for a whole chicken, $8.95 for a half) is stained a ruddy saffron color from a potent marinade that imparts huge blasts of of flavor and helps keep the meat juicy. The chicken is grilled over clean-burning lump charcoal and has a lighter touch of smokiness than similar restaurants.
Related: The top 10 pollos asados roasted chicken places in San Antonio
The beef fajitas ($21.95 per pound) are a solid option for the nonchicken eaters. Pollos El Gallos’s are far more tender and juicy than the norm, and are served alongside a generous quantity of grilled peppers and onions.
That fajita meat gets chopped and tossed atop the restaurant’s biggest calorie bomb, the Papa Gallo Asada ($4.95). It’s a foil-wrapped parcel of chopped baked potato, beef and cheese. Order it if you’re a fan of big-as-your-face excess, but if you’re seeking flavor, give it a pass.
What’s absolutely worth tasting, however, is El Gallo’s take on ranchero beans ($1.50). Instead of the humble cup of pintos and not much else, these are loaded with chorizo, chicharrónes, sliced weenies, onion and tomato for one of the bolder bowl of beans I’ve had in the area.
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Also noteworthy, nopal fans can order a straight-up grilled cactus paddle ($1.75) as a side. Slice that into ribbons, tuck it into a tortilla with some chicken, douse it with one of El Gallo’s three house-made salsas, and you’ve got a taco to talk about.
I know. Sounds like a dreamy Saturday. But here’s the best part: They’re open six days a week. Now hop in that car and go for a drive.
Location: 18770 FM 2252 in Garden Ridge, 210-550-6011, Facebook: Pollos asados “El Gallo”
Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
Paul Stephen is a food and drink reporter and restaurant critic in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | email@example.com | Twitter: @pjbites | Instagram: @pjstephen