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Feb 26, 2009 04:55 PM

Possibly The Best Rotisserie Chicken In Wheaton - El Pollo Kiki Riki?!

In the last four years, I've become a bit of a Peruvian snob. I live in North Kensington, on the edge of Wheaton and we are lucky to have a profusion of authentic, Peruvian/Hispanic-run chicken places near us. For years, the acknowledged king of the hill has been El Pollo Rico at 2541 Ennalls Avenue. Perennial Washingtonian Cheap Eats write-ups and lines out the door have been proof of this. A few doors down in the same shopping center on Ennalls Avenue is a worthy competitor - Super Chicken Pio Pio. I've eaten at both for years and generally enjoyed the experience. But, neither has been perfect.

El Pollo Rico makes great tasting chicken, but they cook so much of it that I sometimes think that they let the quality slip. The skin is often a bit overdone. (On ocassion, it approaches burnt.) Worst of all, the meat is usually pretty dry. Its not so bad when you use the green and yellow sauces they give you.

Super Chicken Pio Pio always has much juicier chicken, but it often comes at the cost of crispy skin. Super Chicken's skin is often flabby and soggy. I'm guessing that its partly the effort to keep the meat moist and also the fact that they cook LOTS of chicken and pile it up in a big plexiglas case on the counter.

Both El Pollo Rico and Super Chicken Pio Pio are side-dish-challenged. Both serve really hideous, acidic coleslaw that tastes like it came out of a 5 gallon bucket. The salad they both serve is pretty pathetic and the black beans are unremarkable. Super Chicken Pio Pio has one notable advantage - FRIED YUCA! El Pollo Rico doesn't offer it, all - just fries. Super Chicken's yuca is authentic and noticably so. It's peeled, roughly cut, and often has the tough strings still left in. It's very similar to what you would get in a Hispanic home. But, both places do have one common problem with their fried sides - they are extremely oily and at times you can tell they don't change the oil. (No surprise, because they sell lots of product and they are cranking it out continuously.)

BUT, in the past week I've discovered a refreshing and unlikely alternative Peruvian chicken joint which is actually located next door to Super Chicken Pio Pio on Ennalls Avenue. It's called El Pollo Kiki Riki. I found out that it was opened by the same Asian owner of the Chinese eatery that just closed in the same space. Yeah, I thought the same thing - ridiculous. But, from the moment I stepped in there, I knew something was different.

First, the aroma of the chicken immediately made me know that it was worth tasting. It didn't disappoint. In fact, of the three places I will say that the Peruvian chicken at El Pollo Kiki Riki is the best I've had anywhere. I've had it three times and it is extremely moist, deeply flavored, and the skin is crispy, brown perfection. Unlike their competitors, they have a real heated food chest to hold the cooked birds. (I'm assuming that it maintains moisture, but doesn't soggy up the skin.)

Secondly, sides are much, much better than the other two places. The salad is fresher, well cut, and they don't just stuff it in a small styrofoam cup. The fried sides are cooked in smaller batches, less oily, and perfectly browned. Both, their fries and yuca are better than those found at the neighboring places. Notably, their yuca is so well-trimmed and cut into nice, uniform planks. Amazingly, I did not find a single string, or knarly piece in the orders I've had. Also, their black beans are head-and-shoulders above the competition. The other guys cook them into gloppy, lumpy mush. These were perfectly cooked, clean, and gorgeously appetizing. I haven't had the other sides, but they looked far fresher and better prepared than those from El Pollo Rico and Super Chicken Pio Pio.

Thirdly (and possibly most important to many people who avoid the usual hole-in-the-wall Peruvian chicken places), this place is CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN! The small restaurant is brightly lit and the signage is much more clear and understandable than the other places. Even when you look back in the kitchen, everything looks cleaner. Unlike the other places, there is no loud, obnoxious music blaring out of a bad boombox.

Fourthly, the prices at Kiki Riki are unbeatable and the portions are generous! A basic two-piece (1/4 chicken) platter with two sides is about $4.50. The four biece (half-chicken) platter is only $6.99. I also had entree called the "Chopped Chicken" which was a generous platter of rice with a lovely stew of diced white Peruvian chicken, served with a generous amount of salad and black beans. It was delicious and cost only $5.99. In comparison to the other places, the portions are equal or better and the prices appear to be equal, or lower.

El Pollo Rico just moved to a brand new, shiny shopping center a block west on University Blvd West and I've eaten at this new location. My feeling? El Pollo Kiki Riki is far better.

If you're in the mood for an unexpected pleasure, give this place a try.

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  1. I agree with your asessments on comparison between EPR and Pio Pio superchicken. The difference in chicken (yes, EPR is somewhat better) to me isn't as meaningful as the lack of Yuca fries in EPR. But then I don't think the service is as good in Pio Pio than EPR (I always felt that PP treats you like you have no money even though I go there twice a week). I am interested in checking out all these other "chicken" places in Wheaton. Thanks for the rec, I'll try EPKR next.

    8 Replies
    1. re: cfoodie

      My pleasure, cfoodie. I also discovered something else about the yuca a Riki Tiki. They are definitely doing something a bit innovative to it. On the last order I had, I discovered a very, very delicate coating of some light batter on it. It was almost like a very light, almost invisible tempura coating. I could be completely wrong about this, but I don't think so. In any case, after eating there 4 times I'm ready to say that their chicken is as good as the best I've had. (The best I've had is Crisp and Juicy - when its very fresh.) As for the yuca, I've never had it as good as at Riki Tiki.

      1. re: Sean D

        How are the other pollo places from Rockville to Langley Park doing after they kinda dipped after the EPR bust? We were going to do a Pollo Smackdown until that interfered.

        1. re: chowsearch

          We definitely need to do a Pollo Smackdown when the weather is warmer.

          I had EPKR takeout today. The chicken I believe could use a little more marinating time. The breast was rather dry and needs to have the flavor soak in some more. The dark meat portion was good. The skin was not crunchy after I got it home, but has a charcoal flavor. There are good selections of sides from beans, fried rice to the soft Yuca fries. There is also a good selection of drinks too (which I hope is not $2 like PPSC) . I personally prefer the hard Yuca fries at Pio Pio super chicken, probably for the crunchieness and likely the flavor of the peanut oil (?) that they use. The soft Yuca fries taste much more similar to your ordinary french fries. The fried Platano was included as a side at EPKR which is not so at other places. I will be back at EPKR in the next few days for a fair second try for their chicken, as well as check out their other side dishes.
          So far, for an ideal meal I would take EPR chicken, with PPSC Yuca fries with a second side dish and drink from EPKR.

          I will need other Wheaton chicken recommendations, and will try out El Pollo Primo at Rockville Pike given a chance.

          1. re: cfoodie

            Oh cfoodie, definitely give El Pollo Primo in Rockville a try! They are pre-Peruvian actually. They were opened around 1984 by two Iranian husband/wife couples who moved here from California. At the time, the whole Latin broiled chicken thing was largely unprecedented in this area. Their chicken isn't really Peruvian. Its more like the El Pollo Loco fast food that you get on the West Coast. They don't put the chicken on rotisserie. They butterfly it and cook it on a flat grill. It has a much more citrusy, orange flavor and the skin is awesome. Though, I must say that in recent years, with successive changes in ownership, the quality control has slipped a bit.

            1. re: Sean D

              I was working in Rockville when El Pollo Primo opened. I had many enjoyable lunches there. Amazing that they're still around. They had paper place mats with amusing instructions on how to eat their chicken, encouraging you to shred it with your fingers, put it on a tortilla with a little rice and beans, then roll it up and enjoy.

              1. re: MikeR

                Anybody have recent experience with Langley Park pollo places over by University/NH Ave?

              2. re: Sean D

                Sean, any other Pollo places you would recommend in the greater Montgomery county region. Perhaps your top 10.

                1. re: cfoodie

                  Cfoodie, my apologies for not replying. I've been away. I don't think I have 10 pollo places that I'd rate at the top, but here are the best I'd patronize myself. The overall criteria for me are flavor and quality control:
                  - 1. El Pollo Kiki Riki
                  - 2. Crisp and Juicy
                  - 3. El Pollo Rico / Super Chicken Pio Pio (Tie)

                  I'm sure there are some better ones out there, but I haven't found them. Everything else I've had in Wheaton is so-so.

                  I'm glad I got this string started. This is one of those cuisines that needs more discussion.


      2. Do you have an address for this place?

        1. Sean,
          On your recommendation, I went to Kiki Riki for lunch today and found everything to be as you had written. The freshly fried yuca was a revelation; the chicken was moist and the skin crisp. Absolutely delicious. Thank you

          2 Replies
          1. re: OldSchool

            Where is this place?! I was in DC over the weekend and ended up at El Polo Rico because no amount of searching turned up Kiki Riki.

            1. re: Rick

              It's on Ennalls Ave. in Wheaton. From DC, take Ga. Ave. north, then take Veirs Mill Rd where it splits off Ga. Ennalls is just north of Chuck Levin's Music. Take a right; Kiki Riki is in the strip center on the left. On wkends, it can be hard to get parking there but there's a metered lot across the street.

              If you take Metro, get off at Wheaton stn. The restaurant is less than a mile away.

          2. One thing to be aware of at the Arlington El Pollo Rico is the parking situation. It gets pretty busy there at lunch time, and the parking lot is pretty small. There's usually metered parking around the corner on Fairfax Drive, but often someone will pull into the entrance of the lot and just sit there waiting for a space to open up, then someone will come up behind that car, and then another, and very soon the narrow street is blocked. If only people would just drive around the block they'd probably get a space next time around.

            If having traffic blocked on the street is annoying to me (who wants to go to the same place all the blockers want to go) think of how it is for someone who just wants to drive down the street. Where's a traffic cop when you need one? <G>

            1. Ah, me. I think I'll have to find a new favorite chicken place. After getting a parking space on the first try I'm about 99% sure that I was given the wrong change by the cashier. I got a quarter chicken which is an even $5 including tax, handed the cashier a $20, and he handed me back a $5. I told him I was sure I gave him $20. He opened the cash register drawer again, fished around, came up with a $10 bill and said "No, that's what you gave me. I remember because it had a red mark on it." I thought maybe I just had a senior moment, and went off to a table to eat my (excellent as usual) chicken and fries-because-they-have-no-yuca.

              After I finished my meal, I looked in my wallet again. I had stopped at the bank before lunch and got five $20s because I had less than $20 with me. I hadn't spent any cash between the bank and lunch, and I had only four $20s in my wallet. So I went back to the cashier and told him that he must have made a mistake, and I explained why I was sure. He pulled out the same "marked" $10 bill and said "no, this is what you gave me."

              He called a manager who came over, I gave him the story, not accusing the cashier of stealing from me, just suggesting that since it was busy, he may have made an error. The cashier asked me to show him my walled, and I counted out the four $20s, plus a $10 and the $5 that I got in change from the cashier. He did the right thing as a manger and supported his cashier. But neither did he offer to give me the $10 that I was certain I was due (and told me never to come back again).

              Sometimes you're just not sure about these things, but this time I was sure. If I go back there again for lunch, I'll make sure I have a $5 in my wallet first.

              5 Replies
                1. re: chowsearch

                  Oops, sorry. All that tirade and I forgot to mention the place. It was El Pollo Rico in Arlington/almost-Clarendon

                  El Pollo Rico
                  932 N Kenmore St, Arlington, VA 22201

                2. re: MikeR

                  Whenever I give a cashier a $20 bill, I always say "Sorry I only have a $20" as a nice way of making sure s/he notices that *I* know it was a $20!

                  1. re: MikeR

                    As someone who works retail, I would've taken your name an phone number, and called you after count-out if the register was over.

                    1. re: Mister Big

                      I suggested that and offered them a card, but they weren't interested. I often say "that's a $20" but it's not a firmly ingrained habit yet. Maybe this will help reinforce that there's sadly a need to do this.

                      What ever happened to "The customer is always right."? I suspect that they're just so busy that they don't want to take the time to fool with it, and they probably won't miss a customer who only spends $5 a couple of times a month if I never come back. And in fact, I probably will come back, I'll just be more careful next time (if I remember).

                      Tomorrow I'll be downtown at FOSE, so I can get my roast chicken fix at Nando's Peri-Peri. Different from El Pollo Rico, but viva la difference.