We tried the fast-growing Mexican chain that is being called the next Chipotle --  here's what we thought

El Pollo Loco is all the rage in the restaurant industry.

The Mexican-inspired chicken chain has posted impressive sales gains since it went public, and shares are soaring.

El Pollo Loco’s expansion plans and fresh food message have many wondering if it is the next Chipotle.

The company recently brought us some of its signature menu items to taste test.

First, we tried the company’s famous chicken.

The poultry is brought fresh into restaurants daily. It is then marinated in a citrus-garlic blend for a couple hours before being grilled on low heat for over an hour.

Customers can buy different cuts of the bone-in chicken or have it chopped and added to tacos, burritos, quesadillas and salads.

The chicken earned unanimous high marks with our taste testers for being juicy and tender.

“The chicken marinade was subtle but added a lot of flavour and the chicken itself was extremely tender,” one tester noted.

Another reviewer complained that the chicken skin was “slimy” but conceded that it had a good flavour.

We also tried the salad, which featured mixed greens, tomatoes, tortilla crisps, and creamy cilantro salad dressing.

Salads are chopped fresh in restaurants daily.

Our testers liked the salad dressing and tortilla strip topping. They also said that the salad paired with some grilled chicken would be a great lunch.

The fresh pico de gallo and guacamole were described as “good, but nothing special.” The fresh tortilla chips served with the dips were excellent: crispy and salty without being greasy.

The rice and beans were also good but didn’t stand out to many reviewers on their own. They would make a nice addition to a burrito, burrito bowl, or taco.

Many of our testers also loved the churros.

While El Pollo Loco brings in the churros from an outside vendor instead of making them in-house, the quality didn’t seem to suffer.

The churros were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. They were dipped in the perfect blend of cinnamon and sugar.

El Pollo Loco caters the meal we ate for $US5.99 a person. It’s easy to see how they have gained a loyal following.

The fresh food left our reviewers feeling better than if they had eaten a calorie-laden meal from competitors Taco Bell and Chipotle.

“I feel full but not gross, which I can hardly say after dining at Taco Bell,” one tester said. “The ingredients tasted fresh, whole, and guilt-free.”

El Pollo Loco is currently in the process of expanding on the West Coast and in the South, most notably in Atlanta.

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