Many a New Yorker has been heard to complain that the cost of living in the city is spiralling out of control, but there are very few residents who have complained that something is too cheap or that they get too good value for money. Well, this blog post is not a complaint, but it is a kind of warning to all you jaded urbanites who feel like they’re being shaken down every time they eat out or order in, because here comes a tale of customer satisfaction followed by incredulity when presented with the check.
Our end of Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn (one of the two main thorough-fares in the neighborhood Architectural Digest recently named the best in America, Park Slope), is festooned with restaurants of all kinds. In fact, there are more restaurants, I would say, than there are any other kind of stores on the street. An average of perhaps two and a half eateries per block. Many of these have sprung up in the last few years and are of a certain type – dim-lighting, dark wood interiors and “fusion” menus – catering to the newly-arrived, brownstone-purchasing, high income-earning folks that used to only inhabit the upper west and upper east sides of Manhattan . Since the advent of these restaurants, many of the neighborhoods’ original retailers have left – in fact, just this past weekend, we noticed that the shady-looking storefront selling Articulos Religiosos had gone, probably to be replaced with some joint with a menu trying to emulate Tyler Florence. Anyway, in the midst of all this change and gentrification sits Los Pollitos II, a small, noisy Mexican restaurant specializing in rotisserie chicken, a few northern Mexican staples (fajitas, burritos, etc.) and some more Caribbean-coast inspired dishes, that has remained a constant in the culinary landscape of our changing neighborhood.
Last night, my wife and I were feeling a bit under the weather and decided we wanted Pollitos’ chicken soup, some rotisserie chicken, rice and beans and a salad. A very basic, wholesome meal without too many flavors. A large soup (more than a pint), half a roast chicken, a small rice and beans, an order of tostones (starchy, fried, smashed plantains) with garlic sauce, and a large house salad was ordered. We were told we might have to wait 45 minutes to an hour for our order, but we were undeterred — Pollitos has become a go-to restaurant for us (one month this year, when we were crazy busy organizing our wedding, we went there nearly twice a week) and when you want Pollitos, you can’t have anything else. So we settled in to bear our hunger pains until the food arrived. Not only did it arrive in less than half an hour, but the bill was $19.23 for enough food for two meals for two people, or maybe more because we eat too much. $19.23!! Worringly, it’s almost cheaper than buying ingredients and cooking it ourselves, but this isn’t unhealthy food. It’s not low-calorie and it’s certainly not fat-free, but rice, beans and chicken with a side salad is what most of the world would call a good meal and would eat more often if only they could afford it.
Their chicken soup is frankly, a triumph. Never before have I had chicken soup with more flavor and less fat. It arrives with carrots, potatoes, chicken (half a breast and a whole wing, in this case), onion and cilantro, and is, or might be, a meal in itself. Perhaps because they have so many bones from all the rotisserie chickens, their stock is just that bit richer than elsewhere, or perhaps it’s the cilantro, I’m not sure, but I would strongly recommend you try it whether you’re feeling a bit rough or in perfect health. I could rave on at length about how tasty their rice and beans is (something that a lot of people underestimate how hard it is to make tasty), how delicious their tostones and garlic sauce are (really amazing) and how much crisp, fresh salad they give you, but instead I’m going to devote my final words to their rotisserie chicken. It is succelent and juicy – even the white meat, the skin is crisp, salty and almost sweet, and the bones are chewable because of the slow-cooking. It may be the the finest rotisserie chicken in the city and you can get a whole one for under $8. I rest my case.
Indeed, we are not the only ones who have discovered Los Pollitos II, however, I think we may have the distinction of being two of its most regular customers. In the past year, we must have eaten there twenty times, and call me a pikey if you like, but I took my wife there for her birthday too! (They gave us a free dessert, a weird, sweet shot of something, and five of the waiters took an old warped guitar off the wall and serenaded her with “feliz cumpleanos a ti”. How’s that for customer service?)