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The Hole in the Wall Files: El Malecon, The King of Chicken

Written and Photographed by Danielle Oteri

I hate to use this term, but I recently hosted a semi-homemade dinner party. I had just a few people over for dinner on Wednesday night, but didn’t want to do too much cooking because a) it was my birthday and b) it’s hot as frick.

Hence, I turned to El Rey de Pollo.

El Malecon is a Washington Heights institution and a foodie fave. It’s been written about on a million food blogs and was prominently featured in Gourmet two years ago.

Fortunately, the King of Chicken hasn’t let the attention get to his head. Located right next to the George Washington Bridge Bus terminal, it’s open from 7:00 am to midnight and always packed.

Given the large Dominican community in Washington Heights, we don’t lack for good chicken. Yet, Malecon’s chicken really is the best.


First of all, the chicken itself is lean, tender, and moist. (It’s a quality bird.) The skin is slowly blackened on rotisserie spits to crispy, non-fatty perfection.The final addition is Malecon’s signature green sauce—a deceptively simple combination of lime juice and garlic.

The cost of three chickens, a giant order of fried sweet plantains, and an avocado salad was a mere $34. And they delivered it right to my door.

You know how people often say things like, “I feel like I was born in the wrong time”? Well, I never say that. I was born in the right time. A time with air conditioning, salad spinners, and delivery.

From my own kitchen I added sweet corn, microwaved for six minutes inside the husks and served with chili-lime compound butter and cotija cheese.

Never able to stray too far from things Italian, I also served Falanghina wine from Campania in glasses filled with peaches.

[Editor Casey notes that though Danielle omitted the cayenne from the butter recipe in deference to the more, shall we say, faint of heart among us, she served it on the side to dust on top of the corn and cotija cheese. A perfect compromise and a most excellent birthday!]

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