Fast food isn't typical territory for this column, but El Pollo Loco isn't the typical fast-food chain. Though now based in Costa Mesa, California, it wasn't founded there. In fact, it wasn't founded in the United States, period. It's a rare specimen in the nation that has made the Golden Arches a symbol as universal as a cartoon heart: the fast-food import.Check the RFT restaurant page late tomorrow afternoon to see what I think.
The original El Pollo Loco opened in 1975 as a roadside stand in Guasave, Mexico. Guasave is small city located in the state of Sinaloa on the Pacific coast, about 200 miles north of Mazatlán. (Just how small is Guasave? Well, take the source for what it's worth, but according to its Wikipedia entry, its "main [tourist] attraction is the now famous traffic lights right in the middle of the highway.") More locations soon opened throughout Mexico, and in 1980 the chain established its first American outpost in Los Angeles. Today El Pollo Loco comprises nearly 400 restaurants spread across fourteen U.S. states.