Cheap Eats - El Pollo Regio

Wednesday February 18, 2009 12:04 am EST

There is something so deliciously primal about tearing a hunk of chicken off the bone with your bare hands, folding it into a warm tortilla with a spoonful of salsa and devouring it. What can I say? This Mexicana loves her chicken, which means I was delighted to discover El Pollo Regio (5499 Buford Highway, Doraville. 770-458-9663; 10471 Alpharetta Street, Roswell. 770-552-5466. www.elpolloregio.com).

Naturally, the "Pollos asados al carbon" (char-grilled chicken) is the thing to order. This bird soars high above the other chicken spots lining the highway because of its lip-smacking marinade. The most information I could get is that they use Achiote paste, an earthy and thick red paste made from ground annatto seeds that is normally mixed with an acid like citrus or vinegar. The juiciness of the chicken and flavor imparted by the flames charring the marinade make for, as my friend put it, "some badass chicken."

An order of the whole chicken ($12.99) comes with a container of rice flavored with tomato broth, a bowl of smoky "Charro" pinto beans, a piquant salsa verde creamy with avocado, large chunks of sticky sweet charred onions, a fresh salsa roja, a couple of limes and a stack of locally made and all-natural El Milagro tortillas. If you don't have the time to sit down and contend with a bone-in chicken meal, the "Taco Regio" ($4.00) is a great choice. The oversized tortilla is coated with oil and grilled to make it pliable, then filled with an abundance of finely minced grilled chicken, a layer of crema Mexicana (Mexican sour cream) and guacamole. Add a charred jalapeno, some salsa and a squirt of lime and you've got a one-handed meal guaranteed to satisfy.

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