by Sean Maloney
Episode 30: El Pollon Crazy Grill
Address: 20 Harding Mall Drive
This is not a sentence that I want to write, but I am obligated to write: El Pollon Crazy Grill is not very good. It's not terrible, but if my experience tells me anything, it's that this place will be gone in a couple of months. Which sucks because I don't want to shit all over somebody's American dream, but it also seems that somebody's American dream wasn't really thought all the way through. Regular readers know that I'll suffer through a lot of trangressions — slow service, language difficulties, weird vibes — if the food is really good, but based on my experience there, El Pollon Crazy Grill's food is not good. At all. If I were going to be generous I would say it's average, run-of-the mill Mexican food in a neighborhood where that just doesn't fly. I don't know how generous I am feeling.
OK, here's my number one problem with the Crazy Grill — the girl they had working the burrito line can't roll a burrito. At all. I saw her wrap two “burritos” that were essentially piles of filling with torn tortillas draped across them, held together by aluminum foil and primed topple onto your tray (or table) the minute the metal sheath is breached. I understand that achieving a smooth burrito technique takes patience and practice — I have worked the burrito line, it's all in the wrist and keeping you fillings in the right sweet spot — but the time to practice is not in the middle of the what-should-be-a-lunch-rush. I try to by sympathetic to these things, but even I have my limits. She also used the spoon for the rice to dole out my pork and then put the porky-spoon back in the previously unporky rice. I'm sort of a freak about cross-contamination and that made my skin crawl.
The cashier was clearly uninterested in the whole situation, acting as laconic as one can while not being comatose. And I don't really care — working in fast food sucks, trust me, I know — and I don't even want you to make small talk just stay awake for the whole process, dude. I got the feeling that a lot of the employees had come from corporate fast food and brought their — totally understandable, totally reasonable — corporate fast food, fuck-it-for-all-I-care attitudes. But they're not working for The Man — based on the mish-mash of motivational signs and manic aesthetic, this is clearly an amateur operation — and the stakes are a lot higher for all involved.
They have an expensive, well-designed looking sign out front, and uniforms that match, but then the menus, both print and display, are flat-out unreadable, with multiple tiny fonts and very little organization. I tried to ask a question but gave up when the poor girl just shrugged her shoulders. It wasn't a language barrier issue, she had a similar problem with the native Spanish-speaker in line ahead of me. (You should have seen the look he shot me — it was an eyebrow full of 'Good luck, gringo' and eyes full of pity.) It took forever for me to get my burrito — the not-actually-spicy pork was on the menu in big letters but not on the line — and was painful to watch.
Burritos aren't supposed to be quite so torn and frayed. It was a car crash of a burrito, a trainwreck of tortilla and beans and unspicy pork, and to top it off, well, the salsa selection wasn't very good. The red salsa looked like it was straight out of a can, the green salsa was water, and the other two options just seemed off, so I didn't even fuck with them. Oh, and the chips were stale. Not super-stale but definitely not fresh. God, the more I look over my notes the more this place really looks like it sucks. Maybe there is something amazing on the menu that I'm missing? Is there some reason I should refrain from reading this restaurant it's last rites? Let's hope so. Will I go back there in time to discover it? Maybe, but I wouldn't hold my breath.