A small quarter chicken and a lot of sides
  • A small quarter chicken and a lot of sides
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Rimel’s Rotisserie

2005 San Elijo Avenue, Cardiff-by-the-Sea

I’m fond of buying my rotisserie chicken from little neighborhood markets such as Grant’s in South Park or Olive Tree in Ocean Beach. I even threw down for a Whole Foods chicken once when I learned they used Mary’s Free Range Chicken. It cost a little more, but I wanted a chicken that was at least marginally natural, which is not the norm.

Rimel’s Rotisserie takes it a step further, promising “hormone & antibiotic free” rotisserie. I visited the Rimel’s next to Seaside Market in Cardiff, the northernmost outpost of a local four-restaurant brand with locations in La Jolla, Del Mar, and most recently on top of the Western Metal Supply building in Petco Park.


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Upon entering I could see a row of chickens roasting behind what looked like a bar but turned out to be a length of dining counter fronting an open kitchen. I grabbed a seat there and was able to chat with the cooks. The waitstaff seemed a bit stressed out after a lunch rush, and it didn’t help that I ask a lot of questions. Sometimes I sound like one of those carping diners they made fun of on Portlandia.

I got the answers I needed and opted for the 13 dollar quarter-chicken plate over the 16 dollar half, with a preference for the dark meat quarter. Either meal includes chipotle black beans and rice, and I added wok-seared vegetables. I got broccoli galore for that extra couple bucks, along with cabbage, zucchini, and carrots lightly cooked in a mixture of soy bean and sesame oil. The organic veggies weren’t heavily flavored, but between the sesame and quality of ingredients they turned out well. The chipotle beans didn’t have much flavor either, but here I wanted more because the rice wasn’t adding much and I’d expected a little kick.

Rotisserie chicken draws a crowd

Rotisserie chicken draws a crowd

The chicken showed similar tendencies — not a lot of seasoning on that rotisserie, not even the crispy skin, though the small quantity of meat on my leg and thigh tasted of quality. The Rimel’s plan is for you to eat the chicken with one of several sauces. I tried four: barbecue, peanut, sweet chile, and the house “green chile garlic,” which they could have called chimichurri and I’d have believed it. Each sauce was tasty in its own way. The problem was the temperature — the sauces were refrigerated. I love rotisserie for its warm, oily, slow cooked nature, and throwing cold sauce on it took me out of the moment.

I guess Rimel’s has succeeded for 20 years like this, and I certainly get the appeal. But one of those friendly cooks hooked me up with a warm bowl of the sauce they serve with the potstickers appetizer, and the chicken loved it.

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