Lake County Favorites
There was a time when I'd find myself in the odd area of Waukegan from time to time. Despite lots of exploring of the area I found it to be somewhat lacking in the food department. While there are a bunch of taqueria's and such, most of them just weren't anything special. With the exception of one spot. El Rey Del Pollo Asado is the kind of place I've long endorsed. A spot that specializes in something and in doing so turns out a real good specialty type product. Here that product is grilled chicken. Housed in an old fast food building this is anything but fast food, though it does come out pretty quick. Due to the fact it's always busy the grilled chicken is pretty much always cooking.
Locals Favorite in Waukegan
Salsa is one of those things you can use to get a good clue on the rest of the food at a Mexican restaurant. In my opinion if the salsa is good, the food will be too. The other way around, not so much. Well it just so happens that El Rey Del Pollo Asado has one of the best salsa bars in all of Chicagoland. It's not as abundant or overwhelming as the selection at Pollo Vagabundo but they make five different salsas fresh each day and they're all fantastic. My go-to's being the extra spicy pico de gallo as well as a creamy guacamole and a deceiving batch of red. I say deceiving on that because it looks like the old school tomato, onion, cilantro based salsa found at many Americanized Mexican restaurants and it is, but it's also an 8/10 on the heat scale so it's not mild by any means.
Chicken is the showcase on the menu here. While they do have steak tacos, tortas, and even a carne asada meal, I've never ordered anything but poultry. I knew this spot was legit when I first tried one of their chicken tacos. It's as good as you can make a chicken taco without cheating by frying the meat in pork fat or something like that. Tiny chopped pieces of well charred meat go great with their creamy avocado salsa. This is a chicken taco that's actually worth eating, a rarity indeed.
As seen on The Chicago Taco Tour
Recently when I had to go out to the Northshore to get my car fixed I made the decision to drive a loaner up the road and get lunch. It's about a 20 minute drive but that's how much I like this place. I cant go when I'm in the city, too far, but when in Highland Park I'm as close as I'll ever get. So why not? Last trip in I finally tried the chicken quesadilla. If you go during lunchtime hours there's a handful of lunchtime specials. All of them include rice and beans as well as a fountain drink. The ranchero beans are whole pinto beans cooked in broth with onions, peppers, tomato, bacon, wieners, and other fun stuff. Both the beans and the perfectly executed classic Mexican rice recipe are as good as anywhere. Not exactly a reason to jump into your car and take a ride but something you can appreciate when the chance to eat here does come. The quesadillas are better than they have to be. Chopped white meat mixed with diced onion and red bell pepper mixed with cheese. I liked them.
Then there's the grilled chicken. The thing about these Mexican grilled chicken spots is the chicken itself is very much the same at most of them. The best indication of a good product in my experience has been the flow of traffic as far as customers. Because of the constant traffic this place gets, there's a drive-thru that's most always in use, the chicken is always grilled fresh. Combine that with the more than fair prices, top of the line sides, and a first rate salsa bar, and you got a pretty great spot. Especially for this neck of the woods where the other options are slim pickings. Still, this place would be wonderful no matter where it was located. The type of spot we all wish we had in our 'hood.
Grilled Chicken Lunch Special
El Rey Del Pollo Asado
505 S Green Bay Rd
Waukegan, IL 60085