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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

El Pollo Rico

Plaudits: Washington City Paper's Young and Hungry's 2009 Top 50 Restaurants
Neighborhood: Clarendon

The Setup

People's strong feelings on Peruvian chicken is something I find so baffling. I didn't even know that Peruvian chicken was an actual thing until I came to DC. And then I couldn't hear the end of it. That being said, I probably would have put off the experience for much longer except Official Friend of DCWD Rebel was in town. And having seen an episode of No Reservations where Anthony Bourdain raved about El Pollo Rico, we headed out to Clarendon.

The Vibe

El Pollo Rico is a lunch counter kind of place which enjoys massive popularity; at 2pm on a scorching Monday afternoon, the line was literally out the door. Granted it was a federal holiday, but still. It being a cafeteria-style establishment, the decor is correspondingly spartan (example: letterboard menus, like the kind you find in old pizza parlors), though certainly cleaner and brighter than the average contemporary. Brightly-colored walls in red, white, yellow, and green surround a room of nothing but four-tops. It's a surprisingly big space for a grab-and-go place though.

The Food

The menu is simple: four combinations of chicken - a quarter, half regular, half white, and a whole chicken. All plates come with cole slaw and steak cut fries and at least two sauces, a green jalapeno sauce and a slightly yellow mayo. The chicken is made in bulk, and the ordering moves with the efficiency of an assembly line. Place your order, hear the knowing sound of a cleaver meeting a cutting board, and thirty seconds later, here's your order on a tray.

The chicken was, in short, good. Well-spiced skin, tender, and fairly juicy. Not the best chicken I've had in DC, but for the price (less than $5 for a quarter platter), definitely the best bang for your buck. It's the kind of chicken you wouldn't mind eating with your hands.

The actual surprise for me was the steak fries. I normally hate steak fries; in the fry spectrum, I'm the guy who digs for the small crispy morsels and ignores the big potato-y ones. But these avoided the starchy mushiness I dislike in steak fries, and won big marks for me. Washed down with Inca Kola (a drink I had forgotten I liked so much), and it was all in all a pretty satisfying meal.

The Verdict

This being just the beginning of my Peruvian chicken experience, I can't yet join the fray and the flurry of opinions on DC poultry. But I can say that it was an enjoyable bite, and one I would totally return to (you know, if it was actually convenient for me to get to).

Food Rating: *** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating:
1.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Bar Rating:
(out of 5) (less than $25 for two)
: Get your aggression out in an artistic way at Pev's Paintball. Located at 39835 New Road, you can find more details here.

El Pollo Rico on Urbanspoon


Joe said...

Ah, you finally hit up EPR! Certainly my favorite Peruvian chicken joint.

The fries are of uneven quality, depending how much of a rush they're in and how long they leave them in the oil. Sometimes they're nice and crunchy, sometimes they're soft and mealy and not completely cooked. Like you, I prefer crunchy.

Daniel said...

for a Pollo Rico full review go to