A quirky little restaurant opened in Shed 2 of Dallas Farmers Market about six weeks ago. Owner Luis Rotundo and his father, Luis Senior, call the restaurant The Right Choice Dallas and serve up rotisserie chickens laced with Venezuelan flavors, tiny arepitas and pita sandwiches. The marketing is a little clunky and the menu jumps around a bit, but I can't help but to think how close this place is to being a really great restaurant.
See also: How Dallas Killed Farmers Markets
I'm devastated they aren't cooking over hardwood, especially since Pecan Lodge just steps away is demonstrating the incredible flavors that can captured only with natural smoke. In fact, the line for Pecan Lodge snakes right in front of The Right Choice Dallas. The Rotundo's are missing out on some incredible, free marketing potential.
Picture this ...
You're standing in line at Pecan lodge counting the freckles on your arm to stave off boredom and your nose is tickled with the scent of smoldering oak, carrying with it the warm, homey smells of freshly roasted chicken and limes. People would freak out over an odor like that, especially if they were forced to watch those perfect birds spinning on their sides over a smoky flame while they waited in line.
Smells and visions like that could prove tempting, but instead this casual restaurant looks dormant. The chicken is all precooked an hour before lunch service. And while you can smell the faint odor of corn flour cooking on a flat top, it's not big enough to grab you by the nose and pull you across Shed 2.
I ordered half a chicken and two sides yesterday, and while my bird was a little dry (on par with what you'd get from your neighborhood grocery store) the flavors were new and interesting. The Rotundo's won't tell me a single ingredient in their secret playbook (I guess the chicken part is obvious) but the acidic tang of citrus is present. It wakes everything up and makes the herbs, garlic and other aromatics in the marinade sing. If they tweak this bird just a touch and figure out how to serve it seconds after it's pulled from the spit, they're going to have some amazingly delicious bird on their hands.
The straight-from-the-griddle arepitas are a little oily, but they're moist and tender. I can't believe these guys aren't serving up a larger version as a sandwich. They could stuff it traditionally with an avocado-dressed chicken salad called Reina Pepiada, or they could do something really crazy like this baby sandwich I made here.
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I cut one of the tiny arepitas and tucked a few pieces of the thigh meat (it's much juicier than the breast) and added some creamy coleslaw with some tang and a small amount of guasacaca (Venezuelan guacamole). The salsa is filled with peppers, herbs and limes and is easily the best thing on the menu.
Of course the Rotundo's are pretty busy with the whole farmers market privatization effort and subsequent renovation that will, at least temporarily, push them out of Shed 2. I don't see them adding menu items or swapping out ovens yet. But they're going to have to make some changes soon enough. There's a lot of potential in this little chicken restaurant. I hope we get to see it soon.