Gas Station Chicken
The gas station food trend is sweeping through Texas. Last week, Katharine Shilcutt tried gas station sushi on the corner of Jefferson and Hamilton. This week, we tried gas station chicken in Austin, Texas. The El Pollo Regio we visited is on the Northeast side of town near 290. It consists of a small window next to the Shell gas station. Our friend had sworn it has some of the best chicken in Austin, but we weren't sold. How can chicken sold from the window of a Shell station be good and not poisonous? She is a chef, so we went anyway.
The day we visited, the outside of the building was being remodeled, so there was no sign. Only a partially open window marked the spot. Our friend had warned us that we may have to order in Spanish. Well, we didn't have to order in Spanish, but we did have to order from a disgruntled lady who didn't looked too pleased to be there. All we could mutter was "one-and-a-half chickens" before she started flying around the kitchen throwing things in a bag. That was it. The ordering was done with five simple words.
A crowd of people started lining up behind us to order. This was a good sign. Maybe we hadn't committed ourselves to a food poisoning-filled afternoon. There is no place to eat at El Pollo Region except your car, so we took our huge bag of food home. For about $20, we overstuffed five people with roasted chicken, corn tortillas, rice, charro beans, sautéed onions, and salsa.
We hungrily tore into the wax paper-wrapped roasted chicken and soft, sautéed white onions. Forget the silverware. This was finger-lickin' food. We filled homemade corn tortillas with hunks of herbed chicken, Spanish rice, and what we lovingly refered to as the green devil. This creamy jalapeño and cilantro salsa had a deceptive kick that we couldn't get enough of. What can we say? We're gluttons for spice. Even the charro beans had jalapeños in them. We had to restrain ourselves from licking our plates clean.
Who knew gas station food could be so addictive? Next time, we will pass up the M&Ms and Doritos for El Pollo Regio roasted chicken and fixin's. That's what we call a good gas station snack.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.