I don’t think I’ll be able to properly convey just how much I loved my meal at Charcoal Grill Chicken today. Today was the first day, but as soon as I pulled up and saw the BBQ set up outside next to a giant bag of charcoal, I knew it was going to be good. I just didn’t know it was going to be this good! This very humble hole in the wall place is serving up some very good Mexican food centered around chicken, and the authenticity is on point.
Juan the owner, is from Chapala in the state of Jalisco, and grew up working at the family restaurant there in Mexico. His brothers all own chicken restaurants in Southern California, and now he is running his own. Each brother named their own restaurant, and they aren’t part of a franchise or anything like that. I suppose owning restaurants just runs in the family.
In Mexico it is common to see roadside stands and restaurants offering pollo al carbon, which translates into chicken over coals. I love pollo al carbon, which I’ve seen in Santa Paula at the market, often heading up the 126 to pick some up for dinner. So when I saw the sign in Canyon Country yesterday, I knew I had to check this new spot out. Let’s just say, I wont need to leave SCV anymore. The chicken from this place is perfection.
Humbly cooked outside of the restaurant on a grill, the chicken has that charcoal flavor but is still perfectly moist. Juan has been perfecting his craft for years and definitely knows what he is doing. The restaurant has burritos and tacos, but the real star here is the chicken and it is offered in a variety of combinations.
The restaurant isn’t very big but they have attempted to make the transition from the previous Italian restaurants to a Mexican one, even making changes to the mural on the wall. Apparently Juan is a muralist as well, honoring his beloved Chapala.
Have you ever had one of those moments when food reminds you of a time and place and you are transported or embraced by a memory? That happened to me here today, long before I tried the chicken. After ordering our chicken, a basket of chips, beans, and salsa were brought to the table and I remember thinking wow, those beans look like the ones my late grandmother used to make. Then I tried them, and my eyes filled with tears. My late grandmother used to make beans just like these, lighter than usual and slightly salty. I now realize that I have subconsciously lived my life since her death on the lookout for beans like these, often thinking yeah those beans are good but they aren’t like grandma’s beans. And the salsa? Let’s just they ended up bringing the salsa bottle to the table because we couldn’t get enough. While we were there we heard them grilling the chiles to make more.
I ordered the chicken and quesadilla combo, served with more beans (yessss), rice, and coleslaw. The quesadilla was perfectly grilled with the right cheese, the coleslaw was sweet and tasted homemade, and these beans had a slight kick. I remembered sometimes my grandma would add a chile to the beans as they were cooking for a hint of spice. When I asked the owner about it later he said that they add a chile but that it is so subtle not many people can taste it.
The place may be humble but there is so much care in the serving of the dishes, as most were brought out on a tray. It felt like you were at someone’s house as a guest. I hope everyone that tries this place gets the same feeling.
Tortillas made by hand? Yes. Eating this perfectly grilled chicken with handmade tortillas added to the whole experience.
As I was leaving, someone had ordered mojarra frita. I had to take a quick photo to show you how amazing it looked. I know it is going to be hard to order anything but the chicken next time, but this fried fish looked and smelled incredible.
Please give this very humble restaurant a try. It is nothing fancy, it isn’t very big, the parking situation at the strip mall isn’t that great, but wow, they are serving up some really good stuff.
They are open from 10-9, but the owner said if business is good they may stay open later. They also have breakfast in the morning. I feel like I’m going to be a regular and make my way through the menu, it is just that good.
Charcoal Grill Chicken is located at 18921 Soledad Canyon Rd in Canyon Country.