Mercado Owners Open El Pollo Guapo In Wethersfield

The couple behind Greater Hartford's unique "Span-ish" tapas food truck wants to make your busy meal times a little easier. 

On Thursday, Heather and Roy Riedl of Mercado will open El Pollo Guapo at 1866 Berlin Turnpike in Wethersfield, their first brick and mortar restaurant. The storefront offers a variety of carryout options, including rotisserie chicken, fresh sides, salads, sandwiches and grain bowls, with quick counter service. 

The Riedls have young children, and they said the new concept came from a desire for healthy and wholesome quick meals.

"It’s a healthy-ish takeout option, something that somebody can grab on the way home, drive a half-hour, and the food still tastes good," Heather said. The restaurant also has communal dine-in seating for a small number of guests.

The menu naturally focuses on chicken, featuring brined rotisserie birds in whole, half and quarter sizes. Heather said the three-pound birds come from FreeBird, a Pennsylvania supplier of free-range, antibiotic-free chicken. 

A solo meal offers three pieces of dark meat or a quarter-chicken with sauce, rice and a side for $9-10. Half-chickens are $8 with two sauces, or $16 with two large sides, and whole chickens are $14, or $26 with three large sides. 

"Side chicks" include yellow or brown rice, fries, chicken fat potatoes, tomato cucumber salad, sweet plantains and sweet potato wedges, and there will be daily "farm-inspired" specials, Heather said. Sauces feature garlic lime and sriracha aiolis, chimichurri and sweet and spicy vinegar. 

"Guapo Bowls" ($9) offer rotisserie, grilled or fried chicken atop greens or grains. Bowls feature quinoa with kale, sweet potatoes and hummus; salads with romaine or arugula, and rice with avocado, sweet plantains, spicy slaw and pickled onions. Bowls can be ordered vegetarian style without chicken for $6.50, Heather said. 

Three sandwiches ($5.50) also come with choice of rotisserie, grilled or fried chicken, with assorted vegetable toppings and condiments. El Pollo Guapo also serves an assortment of tapas ($4 to $8) like smashed avocado with house chips, popcorn "nugz" with sauce, seasonal hummus, a chicken quesadilla, chicken empanada and wings.

Kids' meals ($5.50) of grilled chicken sliders, chicken and rice or chicken nuggets are served with fruit or vegetables and a juice box. 

The restaurant will offer delivery through platforms like UberEats in a few weeks’ time, Heather said.

Mercado launched as a catering business three years ago and began vending at farmers markets and public events in the spring of 2015, with a trailer hitched to a pickup. In 2016, the business graduated to its current full-sized box truck, serving what the Riedls call "Span-ish" cuisine: tapas-style plates like duck fat fried potatoes, pork empanadas, queso frito with truffle honey and fennel pollen and arroz con pollo.

The couple is fresh off an appearance on CBS's "Undercover Boss." In the May 19 episode, celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson arrived at their truck in disguise as an insurance salesman from Mumbai, looking to learn more about the restaurant industry. Heather Riedl called the experience "absolutely incredible," especially as she and her husband have long been fans of Samuelsson's. 

After the celebrity reveal, Samuelsson offered the couple opportunities to connect with New York-based culinary and marketing talent, and also gave them $20,000 to upgrade the food truck. They've since enhanced the truck with music and tinted windows.

Mercado will continue catering events and appearing each Sunday at the Coventry Farmers' Market at Hale Homestead, but Heather said the truck will otherwise take a short break while El Pollo Guapo is in its first few weeks. Roy Riedl, general manager Tony Evans and kitchen production manager John Bartlett will be based in Wethersfield. 

The restaurant opening is "a little scary, but very exciting," after four months of construction and development, Heather said. "We are chefs and people who like to take care of people, give good customer experience. To be able to be open and doing that is so exciting."

El Pollo Guapo, 1866 Berlin Turnpike, Wethersfield, will be open Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.;  Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 8 p.m. 860-436-4982, elpolloguapo.com, facebook.com/guapoeats.

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