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Pollo Vagabundo
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  • Pollo Vagabundo

    Post #1 - October 14th, 2004, 8:22 am
    Post #1 - October 14th, 2004, 8:22 am Post #1 - October 14th, 2004, 8:22 am
    I have been meaning to post this for quite some time now but my second visit recently prompted me to alert you all about this great place. With all the talk of El Pollo Loco coming to the Chicago market, this place needs to be noted.

    The grilled chicken is what you need to try here. A full chicken dinner with a side of rice or beans and 6 homemade tortillas is $9.75 and there is a half option as well. There is a selection of about 5 different homade salsas that you can choose from. Everything is fresh and flavorful. The one odd item is the frijoles charros. He uses hot dogs in it so while it makes a great franks and beans option, some people may not like this. I do.

    There are other taqueria options here and I can safely assume that they use the homeade tortillas for them as well.

    The place is spot on clean and the owner is genuinely concerned with the quality of his product and customer satisfaction. On our last visit, we stopped in for a quick bite but love to feast on the leftovers the next day so we ordered a whole chicken, made a few tacos, and had the rest wrapped to to. He seemed concerned that we didn't like it and we reassured him that we were looking forward to our lunch the next day.

    I would be interested to hear from other forumites if you stop here someday.




    Pollo Vagabundo
    101 W Grand Ave
    Melrose Park, IL 60164
    (847) 288-0713
  • Post #2 - October 14th, 2004, 11:08 am
    Post #2 - October 14th, 2004, 11:08 am Post #2 - October 14th, 2004, 11:08 am
    I was surprised to see someone ventured into this little place which is just west of wolf road in a little strip mall about 5 blocks from my house. It of course caters to the members of my community and I rarely see many, if any at all anglo's in the place except me. The tortillas are home made every day and excellent. The tortas seem to be extremely popular with the kids in the hood although i have not been able to try one yet. The chicken is very good, but if you go much after the dinner hour it may be somewhat dried out and reheated. The same goes for most of the meat dishes, try to get your order between 4-6pm and you should be ok. IT is a very well kept, clean and friendly place although unless the owner is around it is pretty much no habla english. The chicken burrito was also very good but the main draw is the half or whole chicken dinners. IF the owner makes a recommendation of a particular bean or salsa side i would go with it. There also seems to be some items on the hispanic menu that where not translated to the american side, like a brain and egg taco. but the specials change a lot. They close at 8pm or earlier on slow nights.

    If you are in the area I wanted to point out that The Pasta Factory factory is just 1/2 block east of here. they didnt seem to have a problem with me walking in off the street to buy some canneloni and other stuff and it was cheaper than at caputo's.
    Bob Kopczynski
    http://www.maxwellstreetmarket.com
    "Best Deals in Town"
  • Post #3 - October 14th, 2004, 6:58 pm
    Post #3 - October 14th, 2004, 6:58 pm Post #3 - October 14th, 2004, 6:58 pm
    Cool! I am glad someone else from the forum has been here. I have only stopped in early in the afternoon when a very long sales meeting has left me starved and traffic back downtown on expressways is unbearable. I am half Mexican but I look like a gringa so when I stop in there, I don't look like the typical customer until I start speaking in Spanish. There was a place in Mexico City where as kids, we would always go for pollos rostizados and the taste memory is what drew me to the place. I have had Pollo Loco on the west coast before and was the only thing I tried at the Taste of Chicago. Pretty good but still kind of commercial in the Boston Market sort of way.

    I hope we can get some more forumites out there soon to get their opinions.

    winebabe
  • Post #4 - October 27th, 2004, 2:14 pm
    Post #4 - October 27th, 2004, 2:14 pm Post #4 - October 27th, 2004, 2:14 pm
    Does anyone know the business hours of this place. I need to be in Melrose Park tomorrow morning and was hoping it opened early. I tried the number but only got an answering machine. Thanks.
    -Bac

    Everything is unfolding as it should
  • Post #5 - October 27th, 2004, 7:05 pm
    Post #5 - October 27th, 2004, 7:05 pm Post #5 - October 27th, 2004, 7:05 pm
    The menu I have says 9am to 9pm but they can close for a day on occasion. I have seen a temp sign posted every now and then so call first.

    847 288 0713
  • Post #6 - January 29th, 2009, 9:57 am
    Post #6 - January 29th, 2009, 9:57 am Post #6 - January 29th, 2009, 9:57 am
    On the last very snowy Saturday a couple weeks back, nobody in my house felt like cooking. We were thinking of where we could get a bite out and none of the usual places were very appetizing that day. Then I remembered this place. I drive by it freqently and have always wondered about it. A quick search of LTH brought up this post and clinched it for me.

    A whole charcoal grilled chicken with 6 tortillas, salsa, and rice OR beans (8oz) is now 12.99. Still a great price IMO. ( 1/2 chicken with salsa, rice or beans, and 3 tortillas is 7.75) The chicken was cooked perfectly. Not too moist and not too dry. The spices in the marinade, although I haven't a clue what they are, make it even more delicious. The star of the show here is the fresh made tortillas. It wasn't busy when I went, probably due to the foot of snow that fell, but they made them up fresh while I waited. They couldn't have been better. A little thicker than what you'd get everywhere else, and also a little bigger.

    Some small complaints. The 8oz side you get is kind of smallish and will feed maybe 2 people. So you need to order extra sides if you are hungry or feeding more than 2. Also, if you order beans with the chicken, they are not refried beans, which I assumed they would be. They are frijoles charros (cowboy beans), which are more like a bean soup with tomatoes and some other small veggies. They kind of skimp on this IMO. I wouldn't get them again, rather opt for the refried.

    We got the whole chicken, 2 rice, 2 beans, and an extra half dozen tortillas for just over $20. Well worth it.

    The man who took my order, who I assume to be the owner as he was barking out orders in Spanish to the staff, couldn't have been nicer. I'm sure he recognized that it was my first visit, as well as me being a gringo, and went out of his way to help me order.

    The rest of the menu looks intriguing also. Especially the "Super Tacos", which I believe are "Super" because they come on the giant home made tortillas. One thing I found interesting was that the steak (arrachera) tacos, and other dishes including the skirt steak are Market Price. That says to me he must use quality cuts of meat, but what do I know. The price of skirt steak must have been up lateley because there were hand made signs stating that the temporary price of steak dishes were higher than the current menu indicated.

    The current menu I picked up has the hours as 10am to 8pm every day except Wednesday, when they are closed.

    El Pollo Vagabundo
    101 W. Grand Ave
    Northlake, IL 60164
    (847) 288-0713
  • Post #7 - January 30th, 2009, 2:27 pm
    Post #7 - January 30th, 2009, 2:27 pm Post #7 - January 30th, 2009, 2:27 pm
    Swung by today and grabbed a 1/2 bird and steak taco.

    The flour tortilla's are too thick and spongy for my liking, kinda reminded me of Ethiopian bread, though nowhere near the same level. It's just what popped into my mind when i tried it. the steak was flavorful, but cut into very small pieces rather than chunks which creates a delicate situation where overcooking becomes common. It was tasty, but i would have preferred larger pieces to ensure tenderness and juiciness.

    The chicken was wonderfully crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. there was a nice garlic flavor to both the chicken and the rice, and i actually enjoyed the thick tortillas with the chicken. There is no shortage of sauces and salsas, with at least 6 options available, along with other accoutrements(spelling?).

    The chairs and tables are new, but there is little comfort to this place, if that is soemthing that matters to you. It doesn't to me. I"m definitely coming back, especially with El Pollo Loco apparently closing its doors.
  • Post #8 - May 5th, 2009, 10:07 pm
    Post #8 - May 5th, 2009, 10:07 pm Post #8 - May 5th, 2009, 10:07 pm
    i love this place. they run out of chicken when closing hours near (about 8PM) so make sure you call in and place your chicken order beforehand. i get the pollo entero w/ rice and 6 tortillas. come for the chicken but stay for the salsa bar. this place has a version of the green sauce used at el pollo regio but it is less creamy and more peppery, which is not a bad thing at all. there is an orange salsa (i believe salsa de arbol?) that is extremely hot. luckily the green sauce is less hot though still spicy. there's an avocado salsa, salsa verde, chipotle salsa, pico de gallo, onion/cilantro and a few other items in the bar. the rice is good and i like it better than the rice at regio. as mentioned upthread, the tortillas are large, thick and homemade everyday. they go very well with the chicken. this is definetly my favorite char-chicken place in the chicagoland area. i'm a bit bummed i did not find this place sooner. as mentioned, they do tacos and burritos as well as the more exotic items such as brain and tongue. the carne asada sounds interesting since it is market price. i am pretty sure the tortillas are "a mano (homemade)" for all items. it is one of my favorite restaurants in the chicagoland area--i would say it is up there with cemitas puebla.

    El Pollo Vagabundo
    101 W. Grand Ave
    Northlake, IL 60164
    847-288-0713
    10AM - 8PM (Closed WED)
  • Post #9 - May 6th, 2009, 10:13 am
    Post #9 - May 6th, 2009, 10:13 am Post #9 - May 6th, 2009, 10:13 am
    MBK, the steak taco was decent but not earth shattering. You being in Park Ridge, just head to Las Asadas in Des Plaines for the best steak taco i've ever had.
  • Post #10 - May 6th, 2009, 11:07 am
    Post #10 - May 6th, 2009, 11:07 am Post #10 - May 6th, 2009, 11:07 am
    thanks for the tip. i do eat at las asadas a lot (they are usually great--somtimes they are off) but will still try the taco at vagabundo since im a fan of the homemade tortillas and that green sauce they have as well as most the salsa bar... and of course i will be stopping in for the delicious chicken.
  • Post #11 - August 12th, 2009, 2:24 pm
    Post #11 - August 12th, 2009, 2:24 pm Post #11 - August 12th, 2009, 2:24 pm
    Doo they have mole? I will have to try this place, since I miss the only other place I kne with a salsa bar, that was on Higgins by New Wilke road (the name escapes me now), But my other passion os Mole, so if that is good, it will speed up how soon I go.

    And does anybody know of any other places with a salsa bar?

    --Carey
  • Post #12 - March 25th, 2010, 4:44 pm
    Post #12 - March 25th, 2010, 4:44 pm Post #12 - March 25th, 2010, 4:44 pm
    Passed by this place a while back and thought it had that kind of prescence that indicated it was something other than just another Mexican restaurant, so I made sure to stop on my way home today. The interior is kind of like a barber pole; it must have been a soda shop in its original incarnation. There's another taqueria next door, but they didn't seem to be getting business, so I stuck with my instincts.

    I got the Carne Asada dinner - while I've had better steak (I've had far worse, though, it wasn't bad at all), it was refreshing to have it on homemade tortillas with a nice range of accompaniments. The place advertises itself as being estilo norteño y chihuahua; I didn't notice anything particularly different in style - except for the staggering amount of meat on each taco: they're a bit pricey, (a 2-taco dinner with rice and beans was $7 ish) but they each had about three times the amount of meat one normally gets on an asado taco.

    The chicken smelled really good; if I had been surer of my spanglish and the amount of cash I had on me, I'd have taken one home for dinner. I also really liked the salsa bar; I tried two pico de gallo (s?) and two salsas, a red-chile one and an orangey one. The first pico de gallo had pickled chiles in it along with the fresh ingredients, hot enough to make me burp uncontrollably. The red chile salsa was smooth and delicious, a little hotter than I'm used to, and the orangey one had terrific flavor and a creeping back-of-the-throat heat.

    Definitely a place worth hitting, especially if you are a fresh masa addict; reminded me of some of the good places on Maxwell St.

    Sorry for the crappy cell-phone pics, it deserves better:

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  • Post #13 - March 26th, 2010, 2:39 pm
    Post #13 - March 26th, 2010, 2:39 pm Post #13 - March 26th, 2010, 2:39 pm
    Hey Michelle, thanks for the bump on this. Somehow this place had escaped my attention until yesterday, but as soon as I read this whole thread, I knew where I needed to go for lunch today. Well worth the visit. I just wish I had paid attention earlier.

    You asked what made the place particularly estilo norteno? Well, a few things I noticed. If nothing, the heavy use of hand made flour tortillas is Norteno. Also, there was carne desebrada, which is a dried meat brought back to life and typical of those regions. And brought back to life beautifully I'd say, as I enjoyed a taco de carne desebrada while waiting for my chicken.

    My wife and I, faced with all those salsas, sprang for an order of $2.50 chips. Well worth it without so many choices as the chips were some of the best I've had in recent memory (and the portion was huge).

    My wife, who's Jewish, had quite the lenten lunch of burrito con nopalitos y hueves y aguacate. She really envied the quesadillas gigante as they passed. We know the chowhounditas will love this place. After ignoring it for all this time, I think we will be back tomorrow for quesadilllas y mas.
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #14 - March 28th, 2010, 11:55 am
    Post #14 - March 28th, 2010, 11:55 am Post #14 - March 28th, 2010, 11:55 am
    I've been a bit remiss about posting about this place. It is a 5 minute drive from work and it is really the only restaurant in the area that makes me want to go out for lunch.

    I think the salsa bar is just outstanding. I've never seen this many varieties (I would count more than a dozen), from a tomatillo-y salsa verde, to a chuny pico de gallo, to creamier poblano-tinged or avocado based sauces. There are also ample chopped limes, cilantro, etc. I assume that many, if not all, of the salsas are made there freshly. My standard order is the half chicken with two sides (I usually rope in a co worker as this is plenty of food). The skin is crisp, the chicken relatively moist, and the bird is well spiced. With the bevy of available embellishments and the freshly-made tortillas, this makes for a great lunch.

    I like the arroz and frijoles charros. During lunchtime, they are pressing out tortilla after tortilla. These are wonderful hand made tortillas that get served with the chicken and also get into all of the quesadillas gigantes.

    The standard quesadilla preparation seems to be shredded chicken tinga, or at least that's what my coworkers always get. They are giant and dinner plate sized with oozing and griddled cheese. I've usually been tempted by other menu items, but the few bites I've had have been good.

    I also have enjoyed a recent offering of chicken soup. The broth is fully flavored and appears to be house made and is rich with chunks of chicken, vegetables (broccoli!), and avocado. This is a large serving and makes for an ample lunch.

    I've also tried their tamales which are fair.

    Warning - if you want a half or full chicken order at lunchtime, it may be best to call ahead because it can be a 20 minute wait otherwise. I guess they're popular and they're serving them as fast as they can make them.

    Also, we have successfully ordered some off-menu guacamole which is very good as they have all the fresh avocados on hand.

    Lastly, the chips I've had there are not freshly fried, but they are my favorite El Milagro brand (I see the bags in the back), which are fine by me to enjoy all the salsas (or off-menu guacamole) with.

    I look forward to trying trying some tacos, but it's hard for me to veer from the roast chicken.
  • Post #15 - April 1st, 2010, 10:53 am
    Post #15 - April 1st, 2010, 10:53 am Post #15 - April 1st, 2010, 10:53 am
    Mike Sula just wrote this place up in the Reader (apparently he was there just before I went: that hive mind thing, don'tcha know.)

    From looking at what he wrote, I'm guessing that the orangey one was the habanero (no surprise, despite that I don't really like heat, for some reason I like habaneros. Go figure) and the pickled-jalapeno pico probably had nopales.

    Yesterday, we were in Elmhurst and ate at the Rosticeria, and were pretty disappointed. I'm guessing they make up the chicken in large batches and it sits under heat lamps until ordered - in future, I'd just give it a miss and go to Vagabundo's, they're not that far apart. (If you go to Rosticeria when it's busy, they're pretty good - but why do that when you can have tortillas hecho a mano at this place on Grand between a Smithereeens Exterminator and a strip club?)
  • Post #16 - April 1st, 2010, 1:53 pm
    Post #16 - April 1st, 2010, 1:53 pm Post #16 - April 1st, 2010, 1:53 pm
    watch out for the orange salsa... the heat (as mentioned upthread) will definetely sneak up on you. i'd recommend that if you are ordering the pollo al carbo that you call a half hour before arrival--it'll be fresh and ready to eat when you get there. definetely check this place out. FYI i believe they are closed on Wednesdays.
  • Post #17 - April 19th, 2015, 12:50 pm
    Post #17 - April 19th, 2015, 12:50 pm Post #17 - April 19th, 2015, 12:50 pm
    El Pollo Vagabundo

    http://www.elpollovagabundo.com

    101 W Grand Ave, Northlake, IL 60164

    (847) 288-0713

    Open 10:00 AM - 8:00 PM



    This overlooked restaurant is my favorite Mexican restaurant. And I wish more people would know about it because it truly is one of the best Mexican places in the Chicagoland area.

    It is known for its char grilled chicken.. but I go there for the other offerings. This is the only restaurant that has a salsa bar that offers more than 14 types of salsa. Their tortillas are home made from scratch. Everything is made from scratch.

    One thing I do have to mention is... their burritos are as thick and long as a human arm. It can feed a family. Biggest Burrito I have ever seen in my life.

    The owner who is at the grill all day.. has a certain way of grilling that makes everything taste so good.

    And the burritos are as big as your arm.

    If you don't mind sitting in a dining room that reminds you of the storage room... then check this place out .. you will be hooked.

    You can not judge a book by its cover.
    Last edited by jane franklin on April 19th, 2015, 10:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #18 - April 19th, 2015, 4:09 pm
    Post #18 - April 19th, 2015, 4:09 pm Post #18 - April 19th, 2015, 4:09 pm
    I would be much happier with Pollo Vagabondo if they tended to have some pollo when I showed.
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #19 - April 19th, 2015, 4:25 pm
    Post #19 - April 19th, 2015, 4:25 pm Post #19 - April 19th, 2015, 4:25 pm
    Well, it's not like they don't warn you right in the name.
  • Post #20 - April 19th, 2015, 5:25 pm
    Post #20 - April 19th, 2015, 5:25 pm Post #20 - April 19th, 2015, 5:25 pm
    Bravo, cilantro.

    It is a bit frustrating, but if you don't want to play pollo roulette, you really need to call ahead. Yes, it's more work than I typically want to do for chicken. But it's good chicken.
  • Post #21 - April 19th, 2015, 10:31 pm
    Post #21 - April 19th, 2015, 10:31 pm Post #21 - April 19th, 2015, 10:31 pm
    Vital Information wrote:I would be much happier with Pollo Vagabondo if they tended to have some pollo when I showed.


    I have also been skunked (just once) on chicken from the spit here, but then a steak quesadilla on their excellent homemade flour tortillas mitigated that particular detour. Grand moves pretty quickly west of Gene & Jude's for anyone navigating that area, and I sometimes wend on my way back from O'Hare with captives. Vagabundo is usually worth the wend.
  • Post #22 - April 20th, 2015, 9:40 am
    Post #22 - April 20th, 2015, 9:40 am Post #22 - April 20th, 2015, 9:40 am
    I love Pollo Vagabundo, probably a top 5 Mexican pick for me in Chi-land.

    The last time I ordered a chicken, at lunch time on a weekday, Carlos emphatically stressed to me that I should either call ahead to have it freshly grilled or come in at dinner time or on the weekend. The chicken was hot held that day, but still pretty damned good.

    As much as I like the chicken, their burritos are my must order. The flaky rich handmade tortillas, judiciously filled with chile-fortified carne deshebrada and just a little beans and requisite onions y cilantro adds up to the best Norteño style burro in town (and maybe my favorite burrito, period).

    And that salsa bar though...

    I even love the fun-house 80's fast food decor. I feel like a giddy little kid whenever I go there (or maybe a saucer- pupil-ed teenager :shock: ) The place is the whole package!

    Image

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  • Post #23 - April 20th, 2015, 10:54 am
    Post #23 - April 20th, 2015, 10:54 am Post #23 - April 20th, 2015, 10:54 am
    They have the best guacamole I have ever had in my life.

    Also...their carne asada is very tasty.. I think I figured out why.. Carlos grills the cheese alone first and then puts in the tortilla and regrills it.. It makes a difference.
  • Post #24 - April 20th, 2015, 11:13 am
    Post #24 - April 20th, 2015, 11:13 am Post #24 - April 20th, 2015, 11:13 am
    jane franklin wrote:They have the best guacamole I have ever had in my life.

    Also...their carne asada is very tasty.. I think I figured out why.. Carlos grills the cheese alone first and then puts in the tortilla and regrills it.. It makes a difference.


    What cheese?
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #25 - April 20th, 2015, 11:45 am
    Post #25 - April 20th, 2015, 11:45 am Post #25 - April 20th, 2015, 11:45 am
    I absolutely love Pollo Vagabundo. I work not far from the place and there was a time in my office when we would just trade emails that said, "POOOOOOOOLLLLLOOOOOOOOOO," as the signal that it was time for a trip. I've had the chicken a few times and really enjoyed it (great value), but for my money, the best menu items are the quesadillas. It's a tough call between the tinga de pollo and the carne asada, but I'm leaning carne asada these days which is ironic considering the name. Not many places take the time to make flour tortillas in-house and that is precisely why I crave Pollo Vagabundo.

    Tip for those who have never been: don't expect to eat the entire gigante burrito and be able to do anything productive at work for the rest of the day.
  • Post #26 - April 20th, 2015, 11:49 am
    Post #26 - April 20th, 2015, 11:49 am Post #26 - April 20th, 2015, 11:49 am
    yeah, tortillas look killer and that salsa bar reminds me of taco grill in westmont
  • Post #27 - April 20th, 2015, 4:40 pm
    Post #27 - April 20th, 2015, 4:40 pm Post #27 - April 20th, 2015, 4:40 pm
    Sorry.. I meant the cheese in the Carne Asada quesadilla. Carlos grills the cheese first and then puts it in the quesadilla. Brain not working.

    Also the tortillas used in the burritos and quesadillas are blistered from the grill. Most places don't have that much grilling.
  • Post #28 - November 17th, 2015, 10:08 am
    Post #28 - November 17th, 2015, 10:08 am Post #28 - November 17th, 2015, 10:08 am
    Jefe wrote:I love Pollo Vagabundo, probably a top 5 Mexican pick for me in Chi-land.

    I agree. This place is a gem. I've been 3 times in the past couple of months enjoy the place so much that I actually planned a biz lunch meeting here because the person I was meeting lives in Northlake, and had never been.

    Most recently 5 of us enjoyed 2 whole chickens (with beans, rice and house-made tortillas), a Quesadilla Gigante with Carne Asada and a Burrito Gigante with desebrada in salsa negra. Everything was delicious and that may have been the best quesadilla I've ever eaten. They do a great job with the eponymous chicken. The dark meat is spectacular and even the white meat is moist and flavorful. Tortillas are always made in house and they're excellent across the board (flour at lunch time, corn in the evenings).

    And, as posted and pictured upthread, you cannot mention Pollo Vagabundo without also mentioning their unparallelled salsa bar. I haven't counted but there must be at least 20 of them and I haven't had one I wouldn't happily have again.

    Is the relatively remote location this reason this place doesn't get more attention here? Whatever the reason, Pollo Vagabundo is a bona-fide destination that I hope more LTHers will try.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #29 - November 17th, 2015, 2:26 pm
    Post #29 - November 17th, 2015, 2:26 pm Post #29 - November 17th, 2015, 2:26 pm
    Note the 8pm closing time. Wasn't really thinking about and showed up at 8:05 the other night to a lot of disappointment. Although Gene and Jude's isn't the worst consolation.
  • Post #30 - November 17th, 2015, 2:31 pm
    Post #30 - November 17th, 2015, 2:31 pm Post #30 - November 17th, 2015, 2:31 pm
    fropones wrote:Note the 8pm closing time. Wasn't really thinking about and showed up at 8:05 the other night to a lot of disappointment. Although Gene and Jude's isn't the worst consolation.

    As long as we're on the subject of hours, I'm pretty sure that they're closed on Wednesdays, which is not noted on their website.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

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