Smoky Chicken Elote Bowl, Mendocino Farms Review

I go to Mendocino Farms in San Ramon, California, all the time. In fact, I recently looked at my and saw that I spent over $4000 at Mendocino Farms in the last three years.

That means I’ve tried nearly every dish on the menu. So I was excited when Mendocino released their new menu of bowls.

One of my favorites is the Smoky Chicken Elote Bowl. Here’s a look at this tasty new menu item.

What’s in the Smoky Chicken Elote Bowl

Mendocino’s new bowls are basically big containers filled with healthy, flavorful food. Think of them like a salad, but with grain as the base instead of lettuce.

The smoky chicken elote bowl begins with a base of ancient grains. On top of that, Mendo adds shredded cabbage for a bit of crunch.

That combo is then drowned in what Mendocino calls an Oaxacan-inspired smoky guajillo broth. The broth has corn cooked into it, which gives it a nice texture.

On top of that, Mendo adds Al pastor chicken thigh pieces. As if that’s not enough, the bowl gets topped with crema, cotija cheese, tortilla strips, and pico de gallo. For some reason, you get a single lime wedge, too.

It’s a ton of different items, but they all combine to have complementary flavors and textures.

How Does the Elote Bowl Taste?

I love the smoky chicken elote bowl. The ancient grains provide a nice base to ground the dish and make it filling. The crema and broth make the grains creamy and not at all chewy, and the corn and tortilla strips add a bit of crunch.

Overall, it’s a really balanced dish, with each of the flavors and textures adding something to the whole. The cheese adds a hearty element, and even the cabbage adds in some bright, fresh flavors.

Interestingly, although there’s chicken in the dish, it isn’t front and center. This is a primarily plant-based dish, and the chicken is just one of the components rather than the main event.

Plants are front and center in the Elote Bowl

If you get the dish to go, Mendocino Farms will put the broth on the side. Pour it over the bowl just before eating. If you do it too early, the grain will start to get soggy. 

The smoky chicken elote bowl has a bit of spice to it. If you like really bland foods, it might be too intense. Leaving off the broth helps to cut the spice a bit.

The Elote Bowl and Mendo’s Menu

Mendocino farms says that the global flavors of its bowls are intended to channel the travel that we all missed out on during 2020. For that reason, they emphasize strong regional flavors.

The elote bowl brings in a Mexican cuisine element that’s often missing from Mendo’s menu.  It’s a nice addition.

I also like the elote bowl better than the Shishito bowl. The latter is tasty, but steak is expensive, so the portion feels smaller.

The shishito pepper bowl is good too, but the portions feel smaller, or at least less filling

The smoky chicken elote bowl has 700 calories. That’s not bad, especially compared to some of Mendo’s more caloric dishes like their yummy couscous.


I love the new addition of bowls to Mendocino’s menu, and the smoky chicken elote is one of my favorites. I like it as a hearty lunch, or even a light dinner.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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