If you come to Chapala, be sure to add this to your itinerary:
Does the place have a name? Probably, but I don’t know what it is. Doesn’t matter. All you really need to know is, it’s “the chicken place by the Walmart.” You’ll smell it before you see it.
You know how in the States chicken tastes of nothing? Like button mushrooms? Or farmed salmon? Well, this chicken is the opposite of that chicken. It’s seasoned and grilled to perfection over a charcoal grill the size of small car. And the succulent, fall-0ff-the-bone meat resonates with flavor.
In short, it tastes like chicken.
It’s important to go early in the day, say by 4:30 or the chickens will sell out, and you’ll be a dead-man walking on the way home to disappoint your expectant and unforgiving family.
Just pull over and park anywhere. You can check out the big menu sign (posted prices, so no gringo upcharge), or you can save time and just go for the kill by ordering un pollo con todo, chicken with everything.
If your Spanish is up to scratch, you can spend three minutes specifying the exact characteristics of the chicken you want, like the Mexican lady in front of me did yesterday. But whatever they give you is sure to be the best chicken you had in your life, so don’t sweat it.
Back to the pollo con todo. When you order, they’ll ask you if you want chilis or cebollas (onions) with that.
You do. They’re charred on the same fire, all delicious.
While you’re waiting, you will look around and notice you’re the only gringo there. Just you and the locals.
Seconds later, the grill guy will bring over your chicken and thrust it onto the order lady’s blackened cutting board (more like a cross section from a large tree trunk). Then she’ll whip out her cleaver, hack your dinner into pieces, and shove everything into plastic sack along with the onions, the chilis, a baggie of rice, a baggie of green salsa, and a handful of fresh-made corn tortillas.
You will hand her $90 pesos (about $7 US). This is the same price as a raw chicken from Walmart, with no sides, requiring lots of labor on your part, that won’t taste as good anyway so why bother. She will hand you the precious plastic sack, and you will scurry ecstatically back to your ride.
The smell in the car on the way home will make you weep. You will drive with one hand on the wheel, the other on the collar of your dog, who is straining to reach the heavenly bag.
All set? Good. Now off you go to get your chicken…