The pork sensations of Central Mexico in Granite Bay
Know and Go
What: El Pollo De Oro
Where: 8675 Auburn-Folsom Road in Granite Bay
Hours: Monday thru Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Fridays 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The sign on the door says “homemade food,” and the homeland invoked is Guanajuato, a terrene of brushy mountains, deep silver mines and raging arts festivals that channel energy under cracked, colonial architecture. It’s a true Mexican heartland where the fusion of indigenous ingredients and Spanish influences has had 500 years to evolve into culinary fame.
El Pollo De Oro in Granite Bay has built a following around its Guanajuato-influenced food, and while every option on the menu has fans, there is little denying the popularity of how its cooks prepare their array of pork dishes — showing a mastery of that moist staple of smoky kitchens from Salamanca to León.
There are hints to Guanajuato’s jubilant style everywhere in El Pollo De Oro. A massive Mexican flag is draped across its dining room like a ship’s sailing mast, striking red, white and green over the stone tiles of the cantina. Dolls in Folkloric dancing dresses line the walls. An embroidered fiesta quilt is framed in the corner. The welcoming atmosphere has already lured in a number of writers who give top marks to the restaurant’s poultry dishes, which are served tender and tempting, highlighted with a subtle dash of lime. Chef Federico Hernandez has also earned accolades for his beef fajitas, softly diced and covered in a sauce punctuating mild summer spices with the white wine sweetness of seared onion and salt.
“The food is definitely inspired by cooking in Guanajuato,” said Mario Medina, manager and head waiter for Hernandez and owner Luz Hurtado. “We’ve been here, in Granite Bay, cooking this style for six years now.”
But if there is one cuisine category where locals say El Pollo De Oro really stands out, it’s the kitchen’s flavorful take on pork in four different menu items. One is Cochinita Pibil, a slathering of slow-roasted, delicate strings of pig meat soaked in a light crimson sauce of tangy acidity and smoky paprika notes. The dish is colored with long slices of fresh avocado and it pairs well with El Pollo De Oro’s carbonated beer margaritas.
Another sought-after plate from Hernandez’s cooking arsenal is the Chili Verde with pork. The concoction’s green Tomatillo topping is sharply cloying with sour pepper touches, cut with searing nuances and mixed as a subtle stew of spices and cilantro hints. It’s a Chili Verde with the same smacking zest that’s alive in the restaurant’s signature Pico de Gallo served fresh on the side.
And while Hernandez and his team also put out a straight Carnitas plate, pork lovers can double down on the idea by ordering the big, bursting Carnitas burrito. It’s topped with one of the restaurant’s bronze-colored sauces, mustering lively tomato hues over a nice base of piquant undertones. The sauce enhances the burrito’s grilled pork bits, which have a clean freshness that prove Hernandez doesn’t over-season meat, instead trusting the essence properly gilled pork to speak for itself. Keeping a California touch, it’s a burrito that uses rice, guacamole and sour crème to hit those grilled textures with an old fashion flavor infusion.
Jorge and Angel Arellano come all the way to Granite Bay from Sacramento to get the culinary touch El Pollo De Oro offers.
“They make really good food here,” Jorge said over a massive wine goblet of shrimp cocktail. “This is great, too.”
The Arellanos represent dozens of regulars that Medina, Hurtado and Hernandez have gotten to know through cooking.
“The community is really friendly and supportive for small businesses,” Medina observed. “We’ve made a lot of friends, and some of our customers are like family now.”
Scott Thomas Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at STA_reporter or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/STAndersonJournalist