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Customers flock to Pollos Maria for fire-grilled golden brown chicken, a casual neighborhood atmosphere and reasonable prices. This recipe for success was created by local owners Marie Davies and Carmen Gastelum.
The dynamic duo launched the Mexican restaurant in 1985 after Marie read a news article predicting grilled chicken would take flight as healthy restaurant fare. Once their friend Mary Hickethier designed the Pollos Maria logo and they had a memorable name, they were off and cooking.
The business literally began in Carmen’s kitchen. Her Carlsbad house on Harding Street was converted to the restaurant, where they started grilling their famous birds. The living room was transformed into the indoor dining area and later, they built a patio so customers could also enjoy their pollos under the midday sun or the night sky. For ambiance and warmth, they added fire pits, which customers still rave about almost as much as the food. Meanwhile, Marie expanded the business by adding a catering service, featuring a Mexican Fiesta-type menu served in her Mexican pottery.
In 2005, Marie and Carmen opened their second location in Oceanside. Situated in a new shopping center off Old Grove Road, the restaurant features colorful murals of the Mexican countryside, all painted by Marie’s relative, artist Sean Dominguez. A flat-screen TV makes customers feel at ease as does the quiet outdoor patio, which boasts a water feature.
As for the chickens, they are prepared today as they were then: in a citrus-based marinade, then flattened so they cook evenly and quickly over the grill. The taste, devoted customers say, is tender, juicy and flavorful. Aside from their house specialty, Marie and Carmen also offer a full range of Mexican favorites, from fish tacos to carne asada and even menudo on weekends. Beer, wine and and desserts like flan and cheesecake round out their extensive menu.
Celebrating their 30th year in business the pair still love what they do. Carmen can be found making tamales in the kitchen and Marie often chats out front with both new and longtime guests. They invite you to stop in and say hello.