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Earlier this week, a friend and I were sitting in the bright, clean dining area at El Pollo Rico, putting a hurt on the rotisserie bird that a young woman with a meat cleaver had just hacked into four neat pieces.
The table to my right was filled with three loud diners speaking in that unique strain of Southern dialect called “Redneck.” A young African-American couple behind me was cooing at each other, a shared Styrofoam container between them. A lonely Latino was huddled at a table in front of me, silently devouring his chicken. It was snowing outside. Rap music was playing over the sound system.
It was one of those nights in which all the disparate cultures and people seemed as if they could finally agree on one thing: El Pollo Rico is the shit. And on this night, EPR really was.
The skin on our chicken was crisp, and the flesh was so succulent and just short of too salty, which is the way I like it. And most important, the herbs and spices were in balance; the cumin had not attempted a hostile takeover of our bird.
There is a reason this charcoal chicken is among the leaders in the D.C. Dish Hall of Fame voting, which ends today. At this point the chicken looks like a shoo-in for the hall’s inaugural class, but who knows. Ray’s Hell Burger sits down there in sixth place, just itching to move up with a late, 11th-hour surge. Remember, only the top 5 get inducted.
Don’t see your favorite dish among the leaders? Better get voting. The contest ends at midnight.