Sky Full of Bacon

Rosticeria Los Fernandez

Sometimes you go into a place which seems like nothing special, and yet they do one thing which lifts them above the pack. Maybe they do a couple of other things well, too— yet, frustratingly, they don’t quite do everything in a way that earns your admiration. At what point do you say, the heck with minor complaints, this is a place worth talking about?

I spotted Rosticeria Los Fernandez on North Ave. in Elmhurst after shooting at Supreme Lobster for the next Sky Full of Bacon podcast. The wide range of things offered on the windows and signage was not necessarily a promising sign. It certainly didn’t look like authentic Mexican, and yet, something about it suggested to me that it had promise. Oh, right, I remember what it was: I smelled it driving by. Hickory smoke.

Charcoal-roasted chicken is, of course, a Mexican staple, notably in Sinaloa, but chicken with the very American taste of hickory smoke certainly isn’t. Still, I’m enough of a barbecue fan to follow the smell of real smoke anywhere. The place seems sort of inspired by Boston Market— you order a 1/4 or 1/2 chicken, and pick out some sides from a steam table. (Turns out the comparison is unavoidable, or at least was when the one LTHer to go there went.) I imagine you could put together a meal here that gave no particular sign of being Mexican. But at the bottom of the menu was also “1/2 Chicken Mexican Style,” and that settled that. I got a half chicken with rice and grilled green onions (cebollitas), a lone jalapeno, a container of tortillas, a couple of bottles of salsa, and a bottle of Mexican Coke:

The chicken was terrific— juicy and kissed with real smoke flavor. At this point, LTHForum rules would send me back into the kitchen to determine if it was a Southern Pride RCX-700 or an Avenue Metal custom aquarium smoker, but I didn’t do any of that and leave the question to future researchers. Instead I just contemplated what I found excellent about this meal— the chicken in both flavor and moistness, the steaming tortillas— and what I found rather ordinary, a list which would include the rice (a throwaway at the best of places, admittedly), the chewy (held too long after cooking, I suspect) cebollitas and, sad to say, both of the housemade salsas: a char-flecked red one and a lettuce-based green one, neither of which had much kick (refrigeration may not have helped them stand out, but it wasn’t the only reason).

So I wish Rosticeria Los Fernandez was better all-around. Still, that chicken was about the best BBQ chicken I can remember having in a long time, anywhere of any nationality around town. Usual caveats about whether I hit a BBQ joint at the perfect moment apply, but if you have any reason to be out there, you should give them a try and help me decide if this is a real find… or a frustrating near-miss.

Rosticeria Los Fernandez
522 W. North Ave
Elmhurst, IL 60125

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