The big, fluffy, bright-yellow chicken wasn't working. In need of a human to animate it, the promotional street costume slumped discreetly behind a booth.
But other chickens were on the job: spinning on a rotisserie spit, getting deliciously roasted and ready to be served.
Central Oakland, home to numerous eateries offering a variety of quick, inexpensive meals to time-conscious students and hospital staff, now boasts a Peruvian-style rotisserie, located across the street from Children's Hospital.
The chicken -- available here in quarter, half and whole portions -- is served as a meal, with a small side salad and fresh-cut fries. (For meat-lovers, A.J.'s offers half and whole chickens, without sides.)
Before the birds go to the spit, they're marinated overnight in spices. The rotisserie slow-cooking guarantees that the chickens will have crisp, well-seasoned skin (which helps seal in the juiciness), but the real test of the spice-soak is in the meat. I pulled meat away from the bone: It was sweet, moist and redolent of the marinade -- even with the skin removed.
Also included with the meals, a portion of a creamy, green chili sauce -- a great way to add some zip to the fries.
It's not a lot of heat, but if you need a refreshing liquid cool-down, try one of AJ's exotic beverages -- the sweet, carbonated Inca Kola or chicha morada, a Peruvian-style fermented punch.
While my companion wolfed down a chicken meal, I opted for the "Peruvian hot dog." (Had I really been hungry, the best option might have been arroz chaufa, a fried-rice dish which included rotisserie chicken, vegetables, egg and hot dog, as well as "secret seasoning.")
The hot-dog meal made me feel 8 years old again, and in a good way. The wiener had been sliced into coin-sized portions, seasoned, grilled and presented, scattered, in a huge bed of French fries. I ate the whole thing with my fingers, one little hot-dog disc dipped in mustard at a time.
Spanning the borders of the Americas, AJ's also offers a selection of hamburgers, all made with fresh ground beef. In addition to the traditional fixin's, you can spice your burger up with some jalapeño peppers.
Open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., AJ's stands ready to serve diners seeking lunch or dinner. There might be a big yellow chicken passing out flyers on the sidewalk, but the bird you seek is inside.
3608 Fifth Ave., Oakland. 412-586-4382