Young and Hungry

El Pollo Rico: Is It a Magnet Because It’s Good or Hyped?

The new El Pollo Rico in Wheaton looks as if it were actually designed for its intended purpose—selling those browned beauties pulled from the charcoal rotisserie. Unlike its previous location just a block or two away, this Pollo Rico spot is both stylish and functional.

The stylish elements—the upscale advertising posters, the French bistro paintings—don't do a thing for me, unless they're intended as irony (which would then tickle me no end). But I love the place's new sense of functionality, beginning with the waiting line that's actually inside the structure. No longer do you need to brave the elements to satisfy your urge for a to-go container of the joint's namesake "delicious chicken." But I also like where the owners placed the butcher board—right in front of your face at the counter, behind a protective window, where a woman pulls the charcoal birds from a holding unit and whacks away at them with a cleaver. The act is aggressive. It's dramatic. It's dinner and show at El Pollo Rico.

But as I'm proving with this very blog post, El Pollo Rico gets a lot of media attention; sometimes, of course, it's not so flattering. But often it is, including Anthony Bourdain's drive-by on his recent No Reservations episode on D.C. (Full disclosure: I gave Bourdain's producer the tip for El Pollo Rico.)

Our region, however, is stuffed with pollo a la brasa. I want to know where you like to eat Peruvian chicken. After the jump, I've listed a number of spots that sell the stuff. Do me a solid and write some comments on your favorites. I have a sneaking suspicion that your words may end up in next week's paper, if you catch my drift, and I think you do.

Here are a few of the joints that sell Peruvian chicken in the area:

  • Erin C

    Super Pollo is defnitely better. Some friends of mine are having a chicken off in March if you want to observe, it should settle the chicken wars once and for all!

  • Tom W

    I think Erin C forgot to wear her helmet today. Super Pollo is a cheap imitation. It doesn't come close to the flavor of El Pollo Rico. The line out the door at EPR speaks for itself.

  • chaofun

    Gotta agree with Tom... of all the ones I've tried, EPR is the best hands down. I just wish the Arlington location did Yuca. The keys are use of charcoal and its seasonings.

  • Eric W

    It should be pretty obvious to all that Tom W is really a marketing executive employed by El Pollo Rico. Perhaps he should be spending time coming up with a marketing campaign to distract EPR customers from the fact that the chicken is bland and that the salsa is nothing but "green and water." Also, how about coming up with some sides other than just soggy fries?

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  • Eric

    It's official. In a blind taste test with 16 testers this Saturday in Georgetown, 12 of 16 people chose Super Pollo (also in Arlington) as more delicious than El Pollo Rico. For those of you saying EPR is better because it's what your friends are saying, do yourselves a favor and actually try some Super Pollo!

  • Tim Carman

    I'd be curious on your procedures, Eric. Given the blind test was held in Georgetown, a small haul from the restaurants, the chickens had to endure a trip in their Styrofoam cocoons, where the steam would start to soften their skins and perhaps even water down some of the flavors. In other words, I wouldn't think that either chicken was eaten at its peak. By saying this, I'm not trying to defend EPR, just thinking that those chickens are best eaten on site.

  • Eric

    Ah, but how is a taste test a blind one if eaten on site. Rest assured that the chickens were eaten in short order after their purchase, and the taste difference was so striking that 15 minutes in the car could not have been the cause.

  • Liliana

    Has anyone had the Guapo's chicken restaurant in Herndon? I recently moved from Wheaton to VA and thought I would miss my beloved Pollo Rico, but was pleasantly surprised by Guapo's.

  • Rikki Nadir

    As someone who works very near both the EPR and Super Pollo (recently moved to Wilson Blvd) locations in Arlington, I can say without a doubt that Supper Pollo is far superior. My workplace is 5 minutes equidistant from both restaurants so the time/freshness issue isn't a problem. Super Pollo has superior seasoning/flavor and their choice of sides blow EPR away. EPR was boss 10 years ago and continues to rest off of their rep, but there are too many better alternatives these days.
    Oh, and btw, imo, Crisp & Juicy should be renamed Bland & Greasy, at least if their Falls Church location is anything to go by. Very disappointing.

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  • Conrad

    The Chicken Place in Falls Church (not affiliated with the ones in MD) is the best I ever had. Pollo Rico hasnt been good for years. I cant wait for the new store in Fair Oaks Mall to open!

  • Rey Pollo

    The secret to successfully grilling chicken is all in the preparation. El Pollo Rey offers the same charcoal grilled chicken complete with side dishes.