In late spring, Larry McGuire, Tommy Moorman, and their busy team added to their ever growing portfolio of restaurants to include Fresa’s Chicken al Carbon. Unlike their other well known upmarket establishments Lambert’s, Perla’s, and Elizabeth Street Cafe, Fresa’s is a casual drive-thru/walk-up spot catering to those looking for a quick and delicious meal on the go.
The focal point of Fresa’s is, you guessed it, the traditional Mexican street food Pollo asado de Carbon. Austinites are hardly unfamiliar with this South of the border staple; restaurants such as El Pollo Rico and El Pollo Regio are well known for their pollo asado de carbon, or chicken al carbon, served with quick convenience and at budget friendly prices. Known for putting a ‘fancy’ spin on down home dishes, McGuire and his team focused their attention on revamping this classic chicken dinner. Like its predecessors, Fresa’s adopted the same ‘feed the whole family on the fly’ model by offering walkup and drive-thru service only, but defines itself by prioritizing the quality of ingredients used.
Those expecting the same cheap chicken dinner as other spots might have a bit of sticker shock at Fresa’s prices since better ingredients does mean higher costs. Fresa’s offers two meal sizes, either whole or half chicken, priced at $24 and $14, respectively. Because Fresa’s uses all natural, hormone free Peeler Farms chickens, these birds are smaller than the plumped up versions found elsewhere, but also tastier and healthier as well. Each chicken is prepared either with an achiote citrus or oregano pepper rub (we chose the former for this meal). Along with a chicken, a meal comes with rice, beans, salsas, grilled onions and jalapenos, and corn tortillas. Depending on appetite size, a whole meal could serve 2-3 people heartily, possibly four thanks to the rice and beans, meaning the price per person really is actually fairly budget friendly.
In the past, critics of McGuire & Co. have balked at his restaurants’ upmarket prices on items such as brisket and bahn mis, which are usually counted on to be budget friendly eats. I have, for the most part, disagreed with this sentiment because his restaurants offer much more in atmosphere, service, and experience. However, I was admittedly hesitant to attach this same philosophy to Fresa’s. While paying double digits for dinner out of a drive through was a hard pill to swallow, my post-Food, Inc. chicken anxiety convinced me it was the right thing to do.
As it turns out, paying for a higher quality dinner was well worth it. Our chicken was tender and juicy, though the achiote and citrus flavors could have been stronger. A fresh lime or dash of spicy salsa fixed any missing flavors, however. The rice and beans were addictively delicious. Fresa’s takes the time to make their corn tortillas in house with extremely strong results. I dare you to eat just one! A side of street corn also proved authentic and very tasty.
Along with chicken dinners, Fresa’s menu offers several tortas, family style salads, and sides. Breakfast is served between 8-11am daily, and I highly recommend a breakfast taco and agua fresca to cure any leftover affects of last night’s happy hour. In addition, Fresa’s sells bottles of wine, six packs of beer, and Margarita set ups, making it a one stop dinner shop.
Fresa’s Chicken al Carbon. 915 North Lamar, Austin, TX 78703. 512.428.5077.
For further reading on Fresa’s and other chicken spots around town, be sure to check this excellent comparison and review by Fed Man Walking’s Mike Sutter.