As you approach the market from a few blocks away, you notice smoke bellowing from a building. No, its not on fire. That’s the smoke Michoacan Produce Market is sending out from their vents to demand you to roll down your car windows and savor the mesquite grilled chicken goodness wafting through the air. It is making you salivate and beckoning you to stop, drop your dinner plans and eat pollo al carbon instead.
You parked. The smell is getting more intense in the parking lot. In fact, if you stand there or if your car windows are rolled down for 15 minutes, you and your fine ride too will smell like the pollo al carbon. Which will make you a very desirable walking billboard for the market that sells this bird. It is this lovely chicken and charcoal smell that draws you into the market. Yes- your feet do the thinking for you.
The ~2.5 pound chickens are spatchcocked and cooked on a giant grill on top of charcoal. You order at the butcher counter, the man makes a few chops with his mighty cleaver, boxes up the sides and you pay at the register. This bird looks at the boxed, mushy, bland roasted chicken from Whole Foods, Safeway, Calafia, and other fancy markets, yawns and tells them that they are in the Division 3 high school basketball when it comes to takeout chicken. This is the big league, the Golden State Warriors of takeout chicken. And you don’t have to skip your mortgage payment to acquire this desirable bird. Get two if you are feeling like a high roller.
This chicken tells you that it sits in the flavor spa, brines and marinates itself so the flavors penetrate deep into the meat. The flavors are balanced, and awesome. This chicken also tastes like chicken, which should be the minimum that all chickens should hold themselves to, but most don’t in the sorry state of chicken this country is finding itself in. Its not some dry, bland chunk of breast meat that is a sorry excuse for chicken. Those bring to mind big ag’s ‘accomplishment’ in creating the biggest mass of franken breast meat that tastes like $2/ lb of dineros down the toilet. This meat has texture, a springy texture that is a pleasure to bite into. This chicken doesn’t tell you stories about what farm it hails from, which pasture its hanging out in during the day, and that its air dried. This chicken just demands your respect by tasting good.
Apologies that the fine folks working there had to put up for a few seconds with this gringo’s pathetic attempts at Español because the place is so Mexican that it seems a little impolite to order en Anglais. The man at the register asked this gringo why he took pictures and whether he was posting about this online. Satisfied by the enticing meal, this gringo is happy to oblige. 7 paragraphs of ink a little much for the humble takeout chicken you say? Perhaps. But who else is going to write that, unless the grandma who owns the marinade recipe gets her ass into a Michelin *** kitchen or someone convinces David Kinch to do a Thomas Keller impression and have his own chicken joint?
It is later found that Mary, @rwcfoodie and others wrote about this chicken more than a decade ago. Whoah, it could use more love.
Why is this address in Menlo Park you ask? Is Google Map messing with you? You won’t find the answer here. But this little stretch of land, sandwiched between a very Latino stretch of Middlefield in Redwood City and the hyper rich Atherton, really belongs to Menlo Park. And this parcel is at least a couple of miles from the ‘real’ Menlo Park. Did the mayor from Redwood City lose a bet?