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BySamantha Maxwell/July 21, 2020 11:49 am EST
When it comes to the food scene in the United States, perhaps the most exciting region is the Southwest. Not only do you have Texas-style barbecue and amazing vegan options in California, but there's also the heavy influence of Mexican cuisine. El Pollo Loco exists at the crossroads of these culinary cultures, and its food is reflective of that fact. The Southwestern chain is known for its Sinaloa-style marinated grilled chicken (Sinaloa is a Mexican state), which is so good that some have even speculated that it could become the next Chipotle. And it's more than just the chicken — the food has a reputation for being fresh and often veggie-forward, which makes it appealing to more than just your typical fast food audience.
Whether you have an El Pollo Loco in your area or not, there's one thing that's for sure: It's a restaurant you should be keeping your eye on. But to understand where it's headed, you have to know more about its past. That's exactly why you should learn more about the untold truth of El Pollo Loco.
El Pollo Loco is from Mexico, but its first U.S. location was in L.A.
Juan Francisco Ochoa started El Pollo Loco in 1975. While the first U.S. store was in Los Angeles, it really all began in Guasave, Sinaloa, Mexico. Ochoa had owned a shoe store in the past, but he had a dream... and a recipe that would help him realize it. So, he sold everything he had and turned his shoe store into a chicken restaurant. His family had been making chicken using the same recipe for generations. Ochoa knew how good it was, and he was convinced that he could sell it to the local community.
He was right. The citrus marinade on his chicken made his restaurant a local standout, and soon, customers would wait in line just to get a bite of the famous chicken. It wasn't until 1980, that El Pollo Loco landed on Alvarado Street in L.A. The authentic Mexican chicken became a huge hit, and just like in Mexico, word started to spread in California. By the 1980 census, California's population was already almost 20 percent of Hispanic origin,so it was a good spot to appeal to people who already had a familiarity with Mexican cuisine.
Brad Pitt worked at an El Pollo Loco
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Unless you're from a family that's already rich and famous, everyone has to start at the bottom. For a lot of people, including celebrities, that means working in the fast-food industry. It might surprise you that one very famous star worked at an El Pollo Loco before making his big break in Hollywood. Brad Pitt didn't just work behind the counter, though. He was actually a mascot for the company, which means he got to dress in a yellow feather chicken suit and encourage customers to come in and try the chicken during the grand opening. Though he claims he doesn't remember how much he got paid, he said that he does remember people making rude hand gestures at him frequently.
Pitt doesn't seem to have any shame about his former gig, though. The actor talked about his experience as an El Pollo Loco employee with Ellen DeGeneres on her show in 2019. He told DeGeneres that he had "no shame" about his former employment and added, "man's gotta eat." Hopefully, they let him take some chicken home at the end of his shift.
El Pollo Loco had some internal legal issues
Despite being a smaller company, El Pollo Loco has had its fair share of legal troubles. Perhaps most notable was an internal issue in 2004, when the Mexican branch of the company attempted to sue the American branch. The Mexican branch claimed that the company had not kept up its end of the bargain in an joint expansion agreement the two parties had made years earlier. The Mexican branch won the dispute and received the massive sum of $22 million from the American branch. In addition, it managed to obtain the ownership of the Mexico branch's intellectual property and the El Pollo Loco trademark. Steve Carley, president and CEO of El Pollo Loco at the time, did not support the decision. As reported by QSR Magazine, he said, "We disagree with the jury's decision and believe that it is not supported by the facts in this case as a matter of law."
El Pollo Loco held a record for the world's longest burrito
When you think about what you want to be remembered for after you die, what comes to mind? Maybe you want to be remembered as a good spouse and parent, or as the best in your field, or as a kind person who made other people smile. But if you were El Pollo Loco in 1995, you'd want to be remembered for making the world's longest burrito. That's just what the chain did when it co-organized an effort to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records. The stunt was part of a charity event held at the Honda Center (formerly known as the Arrowhead Pond) in Anaheim, California.
Volunteers were responsible for the construction of the massive burrito, which came out to be 3,112.99 feet long and 250 pounds heavier than anticipated. While it was impossible to weigh a burrito of this size, it was estimated at a whopping 4,217 pounds. Interestingly enough, it was only three inches wide, which doesn't seem unreasonable to actually bite into, especially considering its other dimensions. Not only was this a fascinating practice in making a burrito, but it also helped raise $10,000 for an organization called Olive Crest, which serves abused and neglected children.
The restaurant was owned by the same parent company as Denny's
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Do you remember going to Denny's as a kid? It had fluffy pancakes, value meal specials, and a slew of breakfast options 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week. It may seem like a far cry from the kind of food you'd find at El Pollo Loco, but these two restaurant chains were both owned by the same company at one point. That company was Advantica (though it was known as Denny's, Inc. at the time), and it purchased El Pollo Loco in 1983, just three years after it landed in the U.S. But then, the company decided to put El Pollo Loco up for sale in June of 1999. Since El Pollo Loco was so small at the time, it struggled to gain real growth when it was owned by Advantica. But the potential was there, and it didn't take long for American Securities Capital Partners to scoop it up and call the chain its own.
El Pollo Loco has a pretty appetizing secret menu
Lots of restaurant chains have secret menus and special items that you wouldn't know about unless you were a superfan, but El Pollo Loco's secret menu seriously outdoes itself. It mixes up some of your favorites and gives them a whole new flavor. One of the items that some might find surprising is the fish taco. Yes, El Pollo Loco is all about the chicken, but that doesn't mean it doesn't appreciate a good fish taco just as much as the next person. For a long time, these things were hidden under wraps, and they became a bit of a myth. But now, they've been rolled out at all El Pollo Loco locations.
Another favorite is the Smoky Mountain Black Bean Burrito. Look familiar? If you're a long-time El Pollo Loco fan, it might. It was once on the normal menu but not anymore. However, if you remember how good this thing was, you may want to take the leap and order it again. A slightly less popular secret menu item is the skinless chicken. It may not be everyone's favorite, but if you're looking to cut down on fat and calories but still want that amazing El Pollo Loco taste, it's a solid option.
El Pollo Loco offers dishes under 500 calories
When you eat a fast food restaurant, the last thing you expect is to find something healthy on the menu. And while there has been a shift toward healthier options at fast food joints, especially for kids, there is still more work to be done. That's why it's such a treat when you find a fast food place that offers healthier meal options that you can grab and go without feeling bad about ordering. Some restaurants, like El Pollo Loco, are now offering meal options that are under 500 calories. It's not just "diet food," either. It's high-quality veggies and protein that come together to create a truly healthy meal (not just one that's low in calories but also nutrients).
Don't worry — the healthy food here isn't the stuff of sad salad nightmares. In fact, these options don't even feel like diet food. The chicken black bean bowl, for example, is super similar to something you'd find at a larger chain like Chipotle or Moe's Southwest Grill. Another thing to love about the low-calorie options here? Half of the menu items even include avocado, so you don't have to skip the good stuff just because you're concerned about too many calories.
Stores offer "chickenless pollo" for vegetarians
A few years ago, the meat-free food scene was completely different than it is today. It was nearly impossible to find veggie options — save tasteless side salads and fries — at most fast food restaurants. That left vegetarians and especially vegans with a dearth of food options when they wanted something easy and convenient. But in the past few years, more and more fast food chains have added meatless items to their menus. Even Burger King and White Castle have meatless burger options now.
El Pollo Loco is no different, but the company probably didn't want to diverge from its main attraction too much by offering something like the Impossible burger. Instead, the chain focuses on "chickenless pollo." The fake meat is surprisingly good, and it can be found in several different menu options. El Pollo Loco takes things even further than most restaurant chains, though, and actually advertises at least two of its products as vegan. They're not just for veggie-eaters only, either: They taste surprisingly good, and the texture of the "meat" is actually pretty realistic.
Two franchisees filed a lawsuit against the company in 2016
Not all of El Pollo Loco's franchisees have always been happy with corporate. In fact, back in 2016, two franchisees, a husband and a wife, sued the company. Michael Bryman and Janice Bryman had owned the only El Pollo Loco in their town of Lancaster, California, since 1995. But then, the company opened another location just over two miles away in 2015. The couple claimed that they should have been given the rights to expand in their own city, considering there weren't any other franchisees nearby. This new location, they thought, would reduce their revenue and cap the success of the business they had worked so hard to build.
The lawsuit worked. El Pollo Loco was forced to pay out $8.8 million in damages to the couple, which was clearly a big win for its franchisees everywhere. Hopefully, the company learned to respect its franchisees and their businesses so nothing like this happens again.
El Pollo Loco ingredients are all fresh
At some fast food places, you can tell that just about all the food is packed with preservatives, and you know the meat was probably frozen at some point. That kind of food is becoming less appealing to many Americans as they put a greater emphasis on their health and other, healthier convenience foods become available. This is where El Pollo Loco is winning because the chain is focused on fresh ingredients. This wasn't part of a trend, either: El Pollo Loco was definitely ahead of the curve on this one and was one of the companies that was selling "healthy" food before it was as popular as it is now.
Most notably, the chicken here is never frozen since that can make a significant difference when it comes to flavor. But it's not just the meat. Consumers also enjoy fresh salsa that's actually made from scratch, just as it should be. You'll even get fresh-sliced avocados, not the green mush you'll find at most fast casual spots. These little details are what make El Pollo Loco one of the best in its class.
It's made a record number of deliveries during the coronavirus pandemic
It's no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has been earth-shattering for many restaurants out there. Before the crisis, fast food spots were struggling, and many predicted a coming crisis for the industry. While many of the issues that have led to this crisis are still unresolved, fast food joints now have a marked advantage over other types of restaurants: They have drive-thru windows, which many companies are now deeming essential to the continuation of their businesses. For smaller local businesses, this often requires complete shake-ups in the organization of the restaurant as a whole. But not in the fast food realm.
Since fast food restaurants haven't had to make as many adjustments to keep functioning as other restaurants, many of them have fared relatively well during the pandemic thus far, and El Pollo Loco is no exception. Drive-thru orders now account for 70 percent of the chain's sales. Plus, since the restaurant has started offering free delivery, El Pollo Loco has also experienced record delivery sales. Combine this with the increase in interest in the loyalty program (which earns participants access to meal options otherwise unavailable), and El Pollo Loco seems to be weathering the storm relatively well for now.
El Pollo Loco holds an annual grill challenge for its employees
If you work at El Pollo Loco, there are some skills that you just have to learn. Cooking the chicken correctly is probably the most important. Of course, when a staff member joins the team, they have to learn the basics. But El Pollo Loco takes its grilling seriously, so it encourages staff members to really learn the intricacies of the grilling process. One event that helps the company do just this is the Annual Grill Master Challenge.
This challenge is a celebration of the grilling skills that allowed El Pollo Loco to become what it is today. Many of the participants in the Grill Master Challenge have been at the company for years, so they have the expertise to create a fantastic product. During the event, several of the top grill masters at the chain get a chance to come together and go head-to-head in this grilling competition until the last one is standing. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the chain has held the competition for the past few years, but who knows? It might come back in the future.
You can try to make El Pollo Loco's chicken at home
Even though there are nearly 500 El Pollo Loco locations across the country, not everyone has one close to home. If you've already tried the chicken there, it can be difficult and depressing when you get back home to be relegated to other fast food chicken joints that just don't offer the same taste or texture as your beloved El Pollo Loco. And if you've never been to any of the locations, you're probably curious about what all the hype is about. Is it really that good? What are you missing out on?
Unless you can afford the time to drive across the country to get the chicken you're craving, your best bet is to make your own El Pollo Loco chicken at home. It could take a bit more time than other chicken recipes you may be used to, but it's completely worth it when you take that first bite and realize how flavorful it is. The secret is marinating the chicken in pineapple and citrus juice overnight so it soaks into the meat. Don't worry, it won't come out too sweet — just deliciously tender and reminiscent of your favorite El Pollo Loco meal.
Is El Pollo Loco mashed potatoes vegan? ›
NOT Vegan at El Pollo Loco
Creamy Cilantro Dressing (includes milk) Macaroni & Cheese (includes milk and butter) Mashed Potatoes & Gravy (includes milk, butter, and beef stock)
Our creamy mashed potatoes seasoned with black pepper and served with rich golden brown chicken gravy will feed you and your soul.Does Pollo Loco use real chicken? ›
They Use Only Fresh Chicken
Each day, the average El Pollo Loco restaurant goes through 147 full chickens every day, and they're never frozen. Other items on their menu, including the cilantro, avocados, tomatoes, and hot peppers, are also 100 percent fresh.
This phrase may be literally translated as "The Crazy Chicken." El Pollo Loco( ehl. poh. yoh.What is in a Mashed Potato Bowl at El Pollo Loco? ›
Mashed Potato Bowl - Chicken, broccoli, corn, mashed potatoes, gravy. Ultimate Double Bowl - Double chicken, avocado, sour cream, jack cheese, cabbage, pico de gallo, pinto beans, rice.Does El Pollo Loco use lard in their beans? ›
Young says that although El Pollo Loco is a fast-food restaurant, the beans are “carefully tended in the cooking process,” which may account for the fact that they are the top-selling side order. “The beans are cooked in vegetable oil and water--not lard--and contain a mere 2 1/2 grams fat per serving,” boasts Young.Does Popeyes have real mashed potatoes? ›
Smooth, creamy mashed potatoes covered with our flavorful cajun gravy.What are KFC mashed potatoes made of? ›
Mashed Potatoes: Potato (Dry), Salt, Maltodextrin, Contains 2% Or Less Of Whey Product (Whey, Calcium Caseinate, Calcium Stearoyl-2-Lactylate), Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Soybean, Cottonseed), Vegetable Mono and Diglycerides, Spice, Artificial Color, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Calcium Stearoyl-2- ...Which fast-food has the realest chicken? ›
- Raising Cane's.
- Church's Chicken.
- Carl's Jr.
As the nation's largest chicken chain, we take chicken seriously. Chick-fil-A sources 100% real, whole, boneless breast of chicken that has never been ground or separated, and that contains no fillers or added steroids or hormones*.
Is there fake chicken meat? ›
Vegan chicken is any vegan substitute that mimics the form, texture, and taste of chicken meat. It's now possible to buy vegan versions of chicken nuggets, popcorn chicken, goujons, sliced lunch meat, meaty chunks, and even chicken breast fillets.What's vato loco means? ›
Derived terms. vato loco (“gangster, gangbanger”, literally “crazy dude”)Is Loco a swear word? ›
It is slang for "crazy" and is the Spanish word for Crazy. It can be used as a joke or comment in a lighthearted way, or it can be a real insult.What is loco short for? ›
adjective. slang. : mentally disordered : crazy, frenzied.Is pollo bowl healthy? ›
Pollo Loco's original pollo bowl is a great option for those looking for a healthy meal. It contains all-natural, hormone-free chicken, brown rice, black beans, corn, roasted poblano peppers, and hand-cut pico de gallo, all of which are low in fat, sodium, and calories.What kind of oil does Pollo Loco use? ›
Other Allergen & Dietary Notes: The Fire-Grilled Chicken at El Pollo Loco does not contain any of the Top 8 allergens. It is “marinated in just fruit juices, herbs, and spices,” according to their staff. But it is is prepared on a platform using soy oil.What is the Mashed Potato bowl called at KFC? ›
My opinions are all my own. The KFC famous bowl is a family favorite. These individual bowls are quick, convenient, and delicious! Each bite has crispy chicken, sweet corn, cheese, and creamy mashed potatoes with luscious Pioneer Brown Gravy.Do refried beans have pig lard? ›
In traditional Mexican cooking, the bean of choice for refrying is the pinto bean. Seasoned simply with garlic and salt and cooked in pork lard or bacon drippings, these smooth, creamy beans pack big flavor.Why do Mexicans cook with lard? ›
Lard, rendered pork fat, came to the New World during colonial times. It arrived in Mexico when the Spaniards introduced pigs. Indigenous people in the Americas used to roast their food, but animal fat is easy to use. Soon, cooks introduced it in many dishes, including desserts.Are Taco Bell refried beans lard? ›
A: Yes, all of Taco Bell canned beans are vegan. No lard.
Are KFC mashed potatoes real or instant? ›
The original KFC mashed potatoes ingredients are a little different from the ones we use here. In the restaurant, they're made with potato flakes. The powdered mixture also contains a good bit of sodium, between the salt and MSG, as well as milk and other seasonings.What are the little bits in Popeyes mashed potatoes? ›
The chicken bits and bits of crunches in it! Makes for an interesting texture for a mashed potato!Does Popeyes use pork grease? ›
In Conclusion. Popeyes is known for its delicious fried chicken, and it's clear that the secret to its success lies in the oil they use to fry it. The restaurant chain uses vegetable oil blends, including canola oil and soybean oil, to fry their chicken to perfection.How many calories are in a scoop of mashed potatoes and gravy? ›
Betty Crocker Mashed Potatoes With Brown Gravy (0.75 cup) contains 22g total carbs, 20g net carbs, 7g fat, 3g protein, and 160 calories.How many calories are in a cup of mashed potatoes and gravy? ›
|1 cup||mashed potatoe||237|
We consider Yukon Gold potatoes the best choice for classic dense mashed potatoes. Their rich texture and subtle creaminess make them great for all of your mashing needs. A true all-purpose potato, they're also good for shredding, roasting, grilling, blending (?!), and shingling.Does KFC put milk in their mashed potatoes? ›
Sides. Heads Up! The Biscuits, Cornbread Muffin, Mashed Potatoes, and Gravy at KFC do all contain milk.Are Boston Market mashed potatoes real? ›
Only the good stuff goes in here: real potatoes, milk, butter, and cracked black pepper. It's whipped until soft, creamy, and silky smooth.What is the number 1 chicken place in America? ›
Each and every one of our Chicken McNuggets® is made with USDA-inspected boneless white-meat chicken—cut from the chicken breast, tenderloins and rib meat. Still curious about what's in a Chicken McNugget®? Check out all of the Chicken McNuggets® ingredients.
Does Wendy's serve real chicken? ›
We source chicken, beef and pork from animals raised for high-quality meat from suppliers who meet or exceed our standards for animal care, quality and food safety.Are the eggs Real at Chick-fil-A? ›
Some contain a few additives such as citric acid and soybean oil. Chick-fil-A: The scrambled egg in the Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit is made with whole eggs and water plus salt, natural butter type flavor [medium chain triglycerides, coconut oil, natural flavors], xanthan gum, citric acid, and annatto.Are Chick-fil-A fries real? ›
The Waffle Fries are made from potatoes grown by a family-owned business in Washington State, along the Columbia River Basin. The Johnson family has grown potatoes since 1906, which are served across the country in Chick-fil-A restaurants as waffle fries and hash browns.Does McDonald's have artificial meat? ›
Every one of our McDonald's burgers is made with 100% pure beef and cooked and prepared with salt, pepper and nothing else—no fillers, no additives, no preservatives. We use the trimmings of cuts like the chuck, round and sirloin for our burgers, which are ground and formed into our hamburger patties.Which vegetable tastes like chicken? ›
It's a mushroom. If you've seen those big clusters of mushrooms at the base of trees, those are often Hen of the Woods mushrooms! And, yes, they taste comparable to chicken—don't knock it till you try it!What do you call a female vato? ›
And, vato has a feminine counterpart: vata, which can be used to refer to prostitutes or a female who owes someone money. Bato is just a friendly term, used among male friends.What a Chicano means? ›
CHICANO/CHICANA Someone who is native of, or descends from, Mexico and who lives in the United States. Chicano or Chicana is a chosen identity of some Mexican Americans in the United States.What is the hottest drink ever? ›
Vato Loco (The Hottest Drink on Earth)What is the most offensive word in Mexico? ›
Pinche. Straight out of Mexico, this is one of the most common swear words used there. It's the add-on word for just about every swear word you can imagine. Pinche this, pinche that.What is Mexican slang for bro? ›
Carnal. Literally means “brother,” but as with “bro” in English, it's used to refer to good friends, too. María, te presento a mi carnal. María, this is my bro.
What is the most swear word? ›
'Fuck' is America's most commonly-used swear word, with 11.62 uses for every 1000 posts on Twitter. With 48 curse words per 1000 tweets, residents of Georgia use the most profanities of any U.S. state, with Minnesota (15 per 1000 tweets) swearing the least.What does it mean when a girl calls you loco? ›
loco Add to list Share. If someone calls you loco, it means they think you're nutty or eccentric.What is a slang word for loco? ›
Definitions of loco. adjective. informal or slang terms for mentally irregular. synonyms: around the bend, balmy, barmy, bats, batty, bonkers, buggy, cracked, crackers, daft, dotty, fruity, haywire, kookie, kooky, loony, loopy, nuts, nutty, round the bend, wacky, whacky insane.What does loco mean latin? ›
word-forming element meaning "from place to place," from combining form of Latin locus "a place" (see locus).What are vegan mashed potatoes made of? ›
- Potatoes: Yukon gold potatoes make very smooth mashed potatoes. ...
- Dairy-free milk: Use your favorite unsweetened, plain non-dairy milk. ...
- Vegan butter: Earth Balance is my favorite, but any kind will work. ...
- Seasonings: Garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and black pepper.
Yes, Idahoan Instant Mashed Potatoes Original is vegan.Are Chick Fil A potatoes vegan? ›
yes, our Waffle Potato Fries® are vegan-friendly! Ready to grab a vegan meal or snack? Head to your closest Chick-fil-A!Is El Pollo Loco beans vegan? ›
The pinto beans at El Pollo Loco are already meat- and dairy-free.Why are hash browns not vegan? ›
But, why not, you might ask. After all, hash browns are just potatoes and potatoes are vegan, so, what's the problem? Simply put, their Hash Browns have a natural beef flavoring that contains dairy.Are KFC mashed potatoes vegan? ›
Are KFC mashed potatoes vegan? Unfortunately, KFC mashed potatoes are not vegan as they are made with dairy milk.
What are fake mashed potatoes made of? ›
Instant mashed potatoes are dehydrated potato flakes or granules that, when liquid is added, create light and fluffy mashed tubers.Are Texas Roadhouse mashed potatoes vegan? ›
Not Vegan: Potato Products
Per our February 2020 update, both the Plain Baked Potato and Plain Sweet Potato are baked with bacon grease and are NOT vegetarian or vegan friendly. The Mashed Potatoes are also NOT vegetarian or vegan friendly since they are cooked with chicken stock.
Once at the restaurant, our fries are simply cooked in dedicated frying vats in a non-hydrogenated blend of sunflower and rapeseed oil which is 100 percent suitable for vegans.Are Dairy Queen fries vegan? ›
Yes! Dairy Queen offers hash browns and french fries that are 100 percent vegan (yay!). Unlike other fast-food chains that use animal fat, Dairy Queen deep-fries these snacks to a golden brown crisp using soybean oil. All their burgers come with a side of fries.Are McDonald fries vegan? ›
Unfortunately NOT Vegan at McDonald's (in the US):
French Fries (contain “Natural Beef Flavor [Wheat and Milk Derivatives]” and are fried in beef fat) Hash Browns (contain milk and fried in beef fat) Donut Sticks (contain milk in sticks and sauce)
Are Burger King fries vegan? Burger King fries are vegan as they contain no animal products and are fried in a dedicated fryer. However, there is a statement on the Burger King website to say that cross-contamination is still possible as the different fryer vats share an oil filtration system.Why did El Pollo Loco discontinue black beans? ›
We changed our black beans to a more authentic recipe that we make in our restaurants every day. It was a difficult decision to make the change because we know some of you loved the old ones so much. These new black beans are more traditional Mexican Black Beans and taste great in our salads, pollo bowls and burritos.What kind of meat is Birria at El Pollo Loco? ›
Mexican Shredded Beef Birria is available in three new entrees accompanied by a dippable birria consomé, a slow-simmered, savory beef broth with garlic, chili, and lime.