Will Pollo ala Brasa Still be the Same After the Move


If cities had official birds (do cities have official birds?) is there any doubt that Los Angeles’s would be the chicken.  The people in this city looooove chicken, or maybe they just hate pigs and cows? Or… maybe they love pigs and cows, and want to spare them.  Not likely.  I suspect the real reason people in L.A. prefer chicken so much is because pigs and cows don’t have boneless white meat breasts, that can be grilled and served in sandwich or salad form inevitably topped with avocado. Sometimes it makes me angry.  But there are benefits to this city’s obsession with chicken, namely the obscene amount of amazing rotisserie (and rotisserie’ish) chicken options at our disposable.  There’s the garlic sauce goodness of Zankou, Al Wazir, RoRo’s and Gaby’s.  The red chicken juice topped french fries you get at Dino’s.  And of course there’s the smokey wood fired Peruvian rotisserie chicken.  I found a pretty great version at El Dorado (on Vine just north of Melrose), but everybody knows that the industry standard is Polla ala Brasa, a 20+ year old shack on Western & 8th.

A year ago Squid Ink reported that Pollo ala Brasa would be moving into a larger space, and it looks like they’re getting real close to being finished.  Clearly it was time to go say goodbye to the original…


I’m happy that PaB is doing well enough to finally expand their business, and I’m sure their new art deco meets Frank Gehry meets El Pollo Loco design will attract a crowd that might have been scared off by their dirty looking shack.  But I kind of love the original digs.  Small, crowded, and clearly not updated since the 80s, there’s something charming about the place, which seems tailor made for tucking into a huge plate of rotisserie chicken topped with Peruvian aji. The menu is short and sweet… chicken, carne asada, or grilled beef hearts (which, sadly, they didn’t have the day I was there.)  But everybody is there for the chicken.


You start to smell the deliciously fragrant smoke from a block away, and the chicken itself didn’t disappoint.  When you’ve been doing something as long as Pollo ala Brasa, it’s no surprise that they have it down pat.  The chicken was nice and moist on the outside, and the skin just begs to be eaten.  (Peeling the skin off of rotisserie chicken, or fried chicken for that matter, should be a crime.)  They’ll give you warm tortillas if you ask, which you can use as chicken tearing gloves of sorts (they didn’t give us a knife.)  $5.47 gets you a quarter chicken (white or dark meat) with rice, beans, salad, or fries (choose two).  Rice and beans is a natural choice (their version nothing worth mentioning), but the french fries are the real gem of Pollo ala Brasa.  Thick cut from real potatoes, if the cook just added some damn salt to the things they’d be in the running for best fries in L.A.  Wash it all down with a horchata and it’s tough not to leave with a smile.


As we walked out I was drawn into the warm flame of the oven, mesmerized by the rotisserie of dripping grease.  Some time soon this pile of bricks would be turned into a literal pile of bricks, and I couldn’t help but wonder if Pollo ala Brasa would ever be the same.  They’ve built a new (I’m guessing larger) oven in their upgraded space, but there’s one thing that money and success can’t replace or replicate and that’s years and years of caked on grease and smoke.  Despite what the germaphobes at the Department of Health will tell you, there are some cases where cleanliness is not preferable.  Grilles and woks all make tastier food after years of food and flavor have been cooked onto their surface, and even though the chicken doesn’t actual touch the walls of the hearth, the smokey ghosts of chickens past surely live in those bricks.

If you’ve never been to Pollo ala Brasa you should make a point to go before they tear the original down.  It’s a Los Angeles classic.  And as sad as I am to see them tear it down, I’ll be first in line to start helping them build a fresh layer of grease on the new digs.

Pollo ala Brasa, 764 S Western Ave, 213-387-1531


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