El Pollo Inka is one of the South Bay’s go-to eateries. Juices dripping from the chicken turning on the spit are just a harbinger of the amazing meal to come. The skin is crispy, the meat is moist, and the mixture of spices mind-blowing. The specialty of the house is a quarter chicken with rice or french fries and a salad for only $5.99. Ask for the cilantro rice. Whether they go for the half chicken or the lunchtime special, most people rely on the rotisserie chicken and they never even look at the menu. Luckily I am a menu looker-atter.
One of my regular orders is the Aji de Gallina, shredded chicken in a gravy made from milk, bread and walnuts served over rice. Giant chunks of potato round out the creamy, comforting and hearty stew. A slice of hard boiled egg and a single olive makes you feel kind of special.
Another favorite is the Saltado you can get with chicken, vegetables, shrimp, or mixed seafood, as seen here. It is a trippy stir-fry of the protein with onions, tomatoes, and french fries. Yes, french fries! I am addicted to this dish. If serving it over rice isn’t enough you can order it over spaghetti noodles instead, and add cabbage. Go loco! Oh, wait, we are definitely not going loco.
Besides the main dishes, the chicken soup is my friend’s favorite order, and I couldn’t live without the aji, a green hot sauce that I squirt on the rolls instead of butter. This is also the first place that I ever tried alfajores, a buttery and flaky cookie filled with manjar blanco, a milky caramel similar to dulce de leche. Don’t forget to try an Inca Cola made with lemon verbena.
El Pollo Inka has four locations in the South Bay. I usually frequent the little diner in Hermosa Beach. It has a fast-food feel yet remains cozy. The Gardena location is bigger and umm “fancier” with live bands, a dance floor, and a full bar. At any location, one thing you can be guaranteed is great food. And artificial flowers. Lots of artificial flowers.