El Pollo Rico

No false advertising here: This grilled chicken is worth a drive to Everett.

El Pollo Rico (translation: The Delicious Chicken) is one of the many knockoffs of El Pollo Loco (The Crazy Chicken), the Mexican fast-food franchise colonizing California faster than Taco Bell. But none of the chain's grilled chicken ever reached the perfection attained by its Everett copycat. Sold by the half-bird, whole bird, or flock, Pollo Rico's chicken is marinated in aromatics and achiote, which tints the raw meat lemon yellow and penetrates to the blandest depths of the breast. The birds are cooked on a mattress-sized grill just until the skin crackles and blackens but the meat stays faint pink at the bone. Clean and barely decorated, Pollo Rico's dining room is set up for big parties, and on weekends the place looks like a low-rent family reunion hall. You may see plates come out with birria (goat stew), carnitas (fried pork), or tacos, but ignore all distractions. In fact, when you get your plate, ignore the flavorless, mushy beans and hard rice: The meat, and meat alone, is sublime. You'll find yourself nuzzling the crevices and scavenging every last bite of skin; just in case you crave even more sensation from your meal, a few drops of roasted-chile salsa will make your lips sweat. JONATHAN KAUFFMAN

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