There’s a restaurant doing barbecue chicken better than anybody else in the entire metropolitan area and it’s called El Pollo Rey. I think it’s in a barn. It’s tucked away in Armourdale (or Argentine or Rosedale – I never really know the difference), KCK, in a place you might be able to drive by without seeing – but it would be impossible to drive by without smelling this place. El Pollo Rey keeps a massive wood-burning grill going at all times. Smoke pours out of the top the restaurant and can be smelled for miles away, tempting Kansas Citians to follow their noses directly to the lunch counter. (editor’s note: El Pollo Rey used to be on the corner of 11th and Kansas, it has since moved to a much larger space at 901 Kansas Ave. I found lots of online sources that still list it at 11th – they’re wrong.)
The options on the menu here are quite simple. You can order chicken. You can order half chicken. And if you’re feeling like branching out you can order chicken wings. That’s all and that’s why it’s so damn good. Any restaruant that chooses to do one thing and do it so perfectly they can get people to line up for that one thing understands how the restaurant world works. And it’s that same philosophy that explains why the Cheesecake Factory sucks.
Every order comes out with a stack of tortillas and three little cups on the side: salsa, beans, and rice. You also get a baggy of lightly pickled onions. I sometimes have trouble not shoving all of the chicken in my mouth before I think to make a taco, but if you have the patience and self-restraint that I clearly do not possess, you will find yourself sitting in front of all the fixings necessary to make yourself an amazingly different kind of taco. I order mine with a Mandarin Jarritos soda and the whole thing checks in at well under $10. So not only is it some of the best chicken in town, it’s one of the best deals in town as well.
Is it barbecue? Is it Mexican food? Is it both? Who cares, just bow down to The Chicken King and enjoy lunch.