REVIEW: Pollo Supremo brings Mexican-style chicken to Moreland

Pollo Supremo’s meals come with beans, rice, tortillas, pico de gallo and red and green salsa. This is the half-bird meal, plus guacamole and chips. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Pollo Supremo’s meals come with beans, rice, tortillas, pico de gallo and red and green salsa. This is the half-bird meal, plus guacamole and chips. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

At 5 p.m. on a Thursday, we are the first in line at Pollo Supremo, chef Duane Kulers’ new grilled-chicken shack on Moreland Avenue in East Atlanta. Before we can take more than a couple of sips of our frozen margaritas, drizzled with bright-red hibiscus syrup, our table is crammed with a full-out feast: two spice-rubbed half-chickens; refried beans sprinkled with cotija; aromatic white rice; a trio of salsas; and a stack of griddled flour tortillas for scooping and wrapping.

To this already generous spread, we’ve added guacamole, chips and a side of esquites. Using my fingers to shred dark meat and drag it through the perky, bright-green tomatillo-based salsa, then taking spoonfuls of creamy pintos, rice, corn and pico that I’ve dumped onto my makeshift plate, I get lost in the lusty act of eating and sharing food with a friend. We leave sated, with a slight tequila flush, and boxes of leftovers to take home.

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Pollo Supremo’s whole chicken meal is seen here, with guacamole, chips and a margarita. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Pollo Supremo’s whole chicken meal is seen here, with guacamole, chips and a margarita. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Combined ShapeCaption
Pollo Supremo’s whole chicken meal is seen here, with guacamole, chips and a margarita. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

This simple, earthy repast was deeply satisfying in a way that Supremo — Kulers’ California-inspired taco walkup on Memorial Drive nearby, a place that I awarded three stars in early 2020 — isn’t. My love for Pollo Supremo — which fades a little when I add in the two solo meals that also were part of my research for this review — isn’t all about the cooking: Kulers’ tacos are more complex and varied, and there likely is better Latin American-style grilled chicken around town, from the iconic El Autentico Sinaloense Pollos Asados on Buford Highway to Las Brasas, Decatur’s standard-setting Peruvian purveyor.

No, what impresses me about Pollo Supremo is its big-hearted, neighborhood-embracing vibe. At every visit, I saw parents with small children, chowing down on good, honest, budget-friendly grub in an unfussy environment. It’s as if Kulers, who owns Pollo Supremo with partners Omar Ferrer and Juan Liverance, has mastered the hipster taco thing, and now wants to serve a constituency more set on filling their bellies than making a cultural statement.

While our $25 whole-bird dinner was a luxurious amount of food for two people, it most likely could be divvied up to feed a mama, a papa and a couple of littles.

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Pollo Supremo’s sweet-tangy frozen margarita is drizzled with vivid red hibiscus syrup and sells for $8. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Pollo Supremo’s sweet-tangy frozen margarita is drizzled with vivid red hibiscus syrup and sells for $8. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Combined ShapeCaption
Pollo Supremo’s sweet-tangy frozen margarita is drizzled with vivid red hibiscus syrup and sells for $8. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Kuler’s Sinaloan-style pollo asado, marinated in citrus, chiles and spice, is not just the star attraction here; it’s the only attraction. You won’t find pork, beef, lamb, fish or shrimp — just char-grilled chicken and chicken soup.

On my first visit, I found the chicken overly seasoned and salty. Oddly, a colleague who ambled in for takeout while I was there told me later that his pollo wasn’t salty enough. Go figure. On another visit, my quarter bird again was noticeably salty, and not very visually compelling, either. Robust eater that I am, I felt rather slighted by this $8 meal. So, let this be a cautionary tale: the more you order, the better the deal. (Prices range from $8 for the quarter-bird meal to $45 for a two-chicken spread.)

The sopa de pollo, made with rice and a lovely broth, is wonderful and comforting. The guacamole is delicious and, at $5 for a heaping cup, a good value. A couple of minor caveats: The second time I tried a margarita, it was a bit on the treacly side. And, while the flour tortillas are sturdier than corn (say, for those who want to make tacos), I’m a corn tortilla purist, so there’s no comparison. (Alas, I didn’t know corn tortillas were available until after I dined there.)

While I love plunging a chicken leg into the cooling, raw green salsa, honestly, it’s the sides I obsess about when I dream of Pollo Supremo — spooned up together, the beans and rice are killer.

In sum, the chicken can be hit or miss, but, when the kitchen hits the mark, all is right with the world.

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A cashier takes an order at Pollo Supremo on Moreland Avenue on a Sunday afternoon. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

A cashier takes an order at Pollo Supremo on Moreland Avenue on a Sunday afternoon. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

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A cashier takes an order at Pollo Supremo on Moreland Avenue on a Sunday afternoon. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

POLLO SUPREMO

Food: Mexican-style grilled chicken and sides

Service: very nice; amenable to explaining menu, providing to-go boxes, bags, whatever you need

Best dishes: grilled chicken, beans, rice, esquites, guacamole, chicken soup

Vegetarian selections: guacamole, esquites, salsas, churros, corn tortillas

Alcohol: frozen house margaritas, a few beers

Price range: $

Pandemic safety: masks optional for staff and guests; staff tested regularly

Credit cards: all major credit cards accepted

Hours: 5-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. 1-8 p.m. Sundays

Children: yes

Parking: free in lot

MARTA station: Inman Park

Reservations: no

Wheelchair access: yes

Noise level: moderate

Takeout: yes, order in person; a drive-though is in the works; no delivery

Address, phone: 792 Moreland Ave. SE, Atlanta. 404-748-9082

Website: pollo-supremo.com

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