I love that scene in "My Best Friend's Wedding," when Dermott Mulroney tells Julia Roberts if you love someone you should just tell them before the moment passes you by. You might think this is a stretch but I'm going there. If you love a restaurant share it with someone you love before your buzz is gone. You may be turning them on to a place they will take their future wife or the place that they will spend family nights. Share! Share! Share! One day in the midst of my running around I glimpsed a restaurant I had not seen as I was sitting in my car in the shopping center on the corner of Loch Raven and Taylor Road in Towson. The name of the restaurant—El Gran Pollo. It will celebrate its one year anniversary in July, but it was new to me. I noticed the sign said it served charbroiled Peruvian chicken . . . I'm fascinated. At that point I made a mental note, "I will be back."
It took a few weeks, but I made it back to to the restaurant which sits right next to the Ruby Buffet, where many flock to have that all so comforting smorgasbord experience. However, there are many kinds of comforting experiences you can have with food. I recommend without hesitation you take the leap and try this one, which launches you into the world of Peruvian and Salvadorian cuisine—down home cooking is almost always a good experience no matter what the culture.
So I looked at the menu overhead and saw all of the options—I stood overwhelmed. Nonetheless, I knew that this time around I was going to have the chicken, so I had to remind myself to be good and stop looking at the fish, shrimp, pork chops and other distractions that could have very easily yanked my attention from the mission at hand. Brochetas de Pollo is what I settled on. I tried to order it in my best contrived Spanish accent—trying to appear like I wasn't a novice.
The Brochetas de Pollo is a shish kabob complete with wonderfully seasoned tender charbroiled chicken, onions and red peppers served over white rice, which seemed to be fragrant with the flavors of the meal. I was more than satisfied. However, this isn't the order you get when you are in a hurry. I waited a good ten or fifteen minutes for the order to come up. Just be patient and enjoy the ambience—everything isn't fast food, even if it has carry-out options. Waiting was great for me because it gave me the opportunity to observe, like a good examiner should.
Customer after customer came in and ordered the half chicken. It is also available in a de-boned variety and like my Brochetas de Pollo, it is served with two side orders. My two sides were plantains, which were sweet, fresh, and tender, and the other was arroz chaufa, what Peruvians refer to as Chinese fried rice. Again, I was more than satisfied, but I noticed that the fried yucca seemed to be flying out the door. So I moseyed over to the lady at the register and asked if I could sample the fried yucca; she obliged and even allowed me taste the awesome sauce served with the order. That's when I made another mental note: "I'll be back."
When I did come back I brought a friend's daughter with me. She's a little picky so I couldn't tell her too much about what I was going to try to force on her. She's used to it. I told her it looks a little like western fries. She smiled and that seemed to strike a chord. Talk about a smart cookie, this junior in high school managed to turn her outing into extra credit for her Spanish class.
There's plenty of culture to experience and you will be surprised that there is a cross-section of culture and society coming through the doors. The restaurant serves Salvadorian favorites such as: pupusas, Pescado fritos, Carne Asada con Camarones and more. El Gran Pollo is a restaurant that could quickly become a favorite for many reasons including the affordable pricing, a comfortable unpretentious environment, and the number one reason—good food.
I topped off my meal with a dessert. I hardly ever do dessert with meals, but I was "all in" that day, so I ordered flan and it was so rich and sumptuous. You really could just go for the flan, but whatever the reason you do decide to go, enjoy yourself with an experience in home-cooking that rivals bland and pricier alternatives.