Rotisseria Is Back!

Many thanks to blog-poster Kristen. Because of her, I learned that Rotisseria was back, and consequently I devoured some of the best take-out chicken Minnesota has to offer—chicken made only more super-delicious by the fact that I had thought Rotisseria chicken was a taste that was gone to us forever.

Now, if you’re not familiar with the place, Rotisseria was and is the Twin Cities only Peruvian charcoal-roasted chicken joint. Does Peruvian charcoal-roasted chicken seem a ridiculously specific designation to you, akin to an Icelandic corndog spot, or a Lichensteinian mac and cheese restaurant? That’s what I thought when I first heard of the stuff, but I did some research and found out it’s an iconic regional food, beloved by pretty much all of South and Central America, and well known in the warmer parts of the lower 48. In fact, Peruvian charcoal roasted chicken isn’t just a staple of Peru, but of Miami, Los Angeles, San Diego, and so on.

It’s made simply. You marinate a chicken and roast it on a rotisserie over hardwood coals until it’s tinged with smoke. Before serving, you cut it into pieces and sear it over those same coals until each piece is crisp and edged with black char, and then you serve the chicken with some sort of salsa. Sound simple? It is, and also phenomenally good. It makes your basic grocery store rotisserie chicken taste like sodden saltwater.

Rotisseria opened in Uptown in 2003, next door to Figlio in one of those buildings that was doomed by the Calhoun Square redevelopment, and it never really got the following I thought it deserved. There were a number of reasons for its failure to take off, not the least of which was that parking was difficult, and that the excellence of the chicken was obscured by lackluster pizza and stromboli. That said, the place was my favorite for desperation-dinner delivery, and when they got booted last fall from the Uptown location, I felt an acute sense of loss. I also sort of assumed that since it had been such an odd duck sort of place that it was going to be gone forever. How wrong I was!

In fact, Rotisseria re-opened in March, in a tiny spot on East Lake Street just east of Bloomington Avenue. (For those of you who navigate by food landmarks it’s about halfway between Mercado Central and Ingebretson’s, but on the other side of the street.) I dropped by yesterday and got a whole chicken dinner to go. That is, a whole chicken with a gargantuan side of rice and a little side of smoky stewed beans, for $13.99. How was it? Fantastic; everything I remember. The chicken was crisp, smoky, deeply flavored, and entirely delicious. The green sauce—a piquant, salty, herbal blend that’s sort of a savory halfway-marker between a traditional Mexican tomatillo salsa and a Argentinian chimichurri—was the ideal blend of fire and savor. The new Rotisseria location has also dropped the pizzas and such to focus on chicken and rotating healthy specialties like charcoal-roasted tilapia and shrimp. The restaurant has four booths in case you want to dine in, and it’s done up in a more sophisticated manner than the previous incarnation, in tones of cinnamon, olive, and black. It looks like a Rick Webb restaurant (Zelo, Ciao Bella, etc.) done on an extremely tight East Lake Street budget.

As to delivery? Consider this your lucky season, Powderhorn residents. You have a fantastic, healthy new delivery option in the neighborhood, and the rest of the state now eyes you with jealousy. Owner Saleh Hamshari tells me he opened this new Rotisseria on a shoestring, so isn’t yet equipped to deliver to all his old customers. But we can call in, and if things aren’t too hectic, he’ll try to make it work. Or you can just zip over like I did yesterday and get that rarest of take-out options: something delicious, healthy, and cheap.

1532 E Lake St, Minneapolis