Rotisserie Chicken Dinners That'll Fill Your Belly Without Breaking the Bank

Winner winner, chicken dinner


El Pollo Rico (Photo by Jana Birchum)

It's the middle of the week. You're exhausted. It's been a long day of classes or work (or both!), and you've still got to feed yourself/your roommates/your family. The thought of firing up the stove and actually cooking a meal makes you want to literally die. There's fast food, but that's not the healthiest way to fuel your body and mind as you do homework or study. Takeout gets expensive, and let's face it: Unless you're Elon Musk, you're having to stretch your food budget a little further these days.

However, there is a solution to this problem, and it is the rotisserie chicken. It's economical and it provides many meals while also packing in lots of essential nutrients like protein, iron, and vitamin B12. The meat is great on its own, but it's also quite versatile: Use it to make chicken salad, tacos, and chicken noodle soup. Then you can use the carcass to make stock or bone broth. One little old chicken can provide you with a dozen meals, probably.

Now, the gargantuan rotisserie chicken at Costco, which only costs $4.99, is the gold standard for a cost-effective protein for dinner. You can get roasted chicken from H-E-B, Central Market, Dia's Market, Whole Foods, and Wheatsville, but none of those are a complete meal. What we're looking for here is a full chicken dinner, with two sides and some sort of carbohydrate, with enough portions to make at least four meals.

Here are five rotisserie chicken dinner options from around Austin. Some are more successful than others in the chicken department, while others have sides and sauces that sing. Some are a little more expensive. Rest assured, though, that there's something for everyone on this list, from budget-friendly to la-di-da fancy.

El Pollo Rico

Multiple locations, pollosricos.com

One thing I really like about the whole chicken meal at this fast-expanding Central Texas mini-chain is that you get your choice of sides, which is awesome because sometimes you would really rather have anything but beans and rice. That said, the refried beans here are creamy and delicious, while the rice is serviceable if a little bland. I cheated and ordered a third side, sweet plantains, because who can say no to roasted banana candy? They are magnificent. The chicken came chopped into component parts, but was fairly dry. The flour tortillas were fine, if unremarkable. You get a decent amount of food for $23.29, and there are lots of locations around town.


Austin Rôtisserie (Courtesy of Austin Rôtisserie)

Austin Rôtisserie

111 Congress at Fareground and 8504 S. Congress (at the Far Out Lounge in late August), austinrotisserie.com

When you walk through the streets of Paris, you will frequently pass by shops with chickens on spits right outside the front door. In a pan at the bottom, potatoes are bathed in the chicken drippings as they roast. Oh lordy, if you haven't had a pile of chicken-fat-basted roasted potatoes, I'm not sure you've really lived. This fast-casual joint at Fareground (and the soon-to-reopen truck at Far Out Lounge) specializes in traditional French rotisserie, offering up a family meal ($38.99) that comes with a whole chicken; a salade de chèvre, with goat cheese, walnuts, and dried cranberries; those delectable roasted potatoes; a half baguette; roti sauce; and salsa verde. The chicken was delicious and juicy, but it was quite small; we did not have leftover bird. The portions of potatoes and salad were quite generous, and the baguette was delicious (I wouldn't be mad if it came with a full baguette, honestly). And I don't think I'm overstating the case when I say that the salsa verde, so zippy and spicy, is life-changing.


Julio's (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Julio’s

4230 Duval St., juliosaustin.com

Julio's family pack ($30) is a solid meal. It's simple, straightforward, and reasonably priced. The chicken was moist, very tender, and nicely seasoned. It was also large enough for leftovers even after our family of four had at least one helping (and after I made a hash of trying to carve it). The charro beans and rice were both fine, nothing to write home about, but not terrible. The tortillas were nice; they're not made in-house. (Corn tortillas are available upon request.) My favorite part of a family meal from Julio's is that you can order and enjoy a margarita while you wait for your food, which comes in handy at the end of a busy day.


Fresa's (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Fresa’s

915 N. Lamar and 1703 S. First, fresaschicken.com

This one is kind of an ace in the hole, because Fresa's whole deal is its wood-grilled chickens. You've got a seasoning choice here, either achiote & citrus or Yucatán spice. I opted for the Yucatán spice because, frankly, I wasn't feeling citrus when I placed the order. The chicken arrives cut into manageable pieces and has a nice, smoky flavor. A little surprise bonus was a roasted sweet potato hiding among the meat. Delightful. The rice was moist and herbaceous, and the black beans were redolent of cumin and garlic. The house-made flour tortillas (a substitution for corn) were perfectly cooked; I just dipped them plain into the sinus-clearing spicy green salsa. This meal is a little more dear at $34, but we had enough leftovers for lunch, which keeps it within the realm of affordable.


Pollo Regio (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Pollo Regio

Multiple locations, polloregio.com

I don't know if these folks were having an off day when I came, but this meal was a bit of a bust. The chicken was chopped into several pieces, which I appreciate, because carving poultry is not one of my gifts. There was plenty of it (it seemed like there was more than one chicken's worth of pieces). The big bummer is that it somehow managed to be both overcooked and oily. The sides were generously portioned; the charro beans were spicy and bacon-y, but we'd ordered refried beans. The rice was dry and charred and looked like it had been scraped from the bottom of the pan. The flour tortillas were undercooked, bordering on raw. Just about everything that could have been wrong with this meal, was. But I'm willing to chalk it up to an off day, because I have only ever had excellent food and service from my local Pollo Regio in the past; this statewide chain with roots in Monterrey, Mexico, has garnered a generation of die-hard fans over the past 20 years. At $26.99, it's among the least expensive of the meals on this list.

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