Pop-up shop El Pollo Picante opens on University Avenue

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El Burro Picante a Mexican restaurant located on University Avenue — opened a pop-up shop called El Pollo Picante on Friday.

The pop-up’s menu will be available Thursday and Friday nights from 7 p.m. until it sells out. As part of the El Pollo Picante menu, the pop-up offers sweet, spicy and regular chicken sandwiches.

The idea for the pop-up’s menu came after noticing a need for late-night, affordable food in the area, especially for college students, said El Burro Picante owner Cal Kapner. He added that he aims to keep the pricing affordable and the portions substantial.

“I know when I was in college, I wanted a quick bite to eat. … (I wanted to) have a delicious bite and not break the bank,” Kepner said. “I kind of had the mentality coming into it where … the pricing is based on ten years ago because you’re getting a monstrous sandwich for $8.50.”

Every fried chicken sandwich will have a habanero base, though the amount of spice can be adjusted depending on the customers’ preferences. They will also be served with kosher dill pickles and a slaw, and customers can opt for a spicy mayonnaise as well. The sweet sandwiches were the most popular item on opening day, according to Kepner.

In addition to the sandwiches, side dishes such as coleslaw and fries are on the pop-up menu. Kepner said he also plans to include a vegetarian sandwich, which he hopes will be introduced in the coming weeks.

UC Berkeley students Sarah Pak and Tiffany Tran both ordered the original chicken sandwich with fries and cheese and said they enjoyed the food.

“It’s actually really good. We used to go to The Bird before it closed down, that was … our favorite place,” Tran said. “(El Pollo Picante) is a bit spicier, and there’s honey.”

El Burro Picante first opened in Berkeley in 2013 and was bought by Kepner in 2018.

Following the change in ownership, the restaurant’s look was completely revamped and its ingredients were updated. Its menu, however, remained largely the same.

“It just needed a little bit of love, it has a good foundation … we gutted the place out and just started from scratch,” Kepner added. “We cleaned it up. We did locally sourced produce, and you can taste the difference now.”

As a lover of fried chicken, Kepner said he has revised the recipe for his fried chicken several times since taking over the business and continues to refine it.

“We’ve got nothing but love from the Berkeley community,” Kepner said. “As a restaurant owner, I like to hear what my customers have to say, and their feedback is what keeps me going.”

Devaki Dikshit is a business and economy reporter. Contact them at [email protected] and follow them on Twitter at @DevakiDevay.