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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.
                Thanks.

                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.

                  Thanks.

      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.

                  2. good yuca fries? delicious chicken? i am SO there! thanks for the tip :)

                    1. http://www.washingtonian.com/chats/re...

                      i posed a best pollo question to washingtonian today and todd kliman has no one fav pollo place. i think he also doesn't know of all the possibilities!

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: xpatticakesx

                        He also cut Cynthia's in Severna Park from his best list, saying it didn't offer value. Today I had a great chicken pot pie so big 3/4 went home, tuna potsticker, French onion soup, a couple of their really nice housemade rolls, tea, and it was @9 and they threw in some grilled cheese on rye samples--lunch for two was $29 with leftover dinner. I agree, he doesn't know all the possibilities. At least he doesn't trash ex's places, AFAIK.

                        1. re: xpatticakesx

                          So I checked out El Pollo Camparo on Georgia Ave today. The grilled chicken is more salty and dry than any of the other places. It is still not bad. The setting is comfortable as a fast food place. They have REAL SILVERWARE AND NON PAPER (PLASTIC) DISH!!! They have one side (but bread/tortilla added). Interestingly, their Yuca fries is the same as those of EPKR. ( I think they probably sourced them from the same supplier). The price is a tad bit higher. So, at this point, my favorites hasn't changed. Still need to try EPKR the second round (and go next door for Yuca Fries to take home after the meal). I still appreciate more pollo recommendations for Montgomery county. Thanks.

                          1. re: cfoodie

                            I tried El Pollo Campero during the EPR bust days and found it to be nothing worth writing home about. Chicken that cost more and had less flavor than EPR.

                            EPR is still good to me, but looks like I'll be trying this Kiki Riki place.

                            You gotta wonder how these places stay in business all packed so close to each other.

                            1. re: huesmann

                              Easy . . controversy like you're reading right here. <g>

                              1. re: huesmann

                                Actually, I have my own take on the business model. Restaurants all over the U.S. depend of extremely low-paid, usually-illegal, immigrant labor. This is just the reality of the situation. If you combine this fact, with a little immigrant entrepreneurialism, and a large immigrant community it becomes possible to eek out a living. Stick to it for a while, learn along the way, and adapt to the environment and you'll eventually make it.

                                You're right. These places are packed close together. But, their prices are competitive, their food is fresh, there's a big market, and there is relatively little outside competition.

                                Case in point - El Pollo Kiki Riki. This restaurant and owner have actually been there for quite a while. The restaurant used to have Asian cuisine, but the neighborhood around it became overwhelmingly Hispanic. So, these folks re-invented themselves as a Peruvian chicken restaurant. They stuck to it, they learned along the way, and they adapted. Now, they're beginning to kick butt and take names. God Bless America!!

                                1. re: Sean D

                                  I have lived in Kensington (a hop, skip and jump) for over eight years and been going to EPR for almost as long--since way before the raid, and before the fire. I was actually introduced to it at the Arlington location, where I worked at the time. The place where EPKR is now was indeed once a Chinese restaurant, but I'm not certain wasn't always so. Unfortunately my memory isn't sharp enough to recall what it was before, but around the time between the raid and fire it did become a Chinese takeout joint.

                                  Anyway, a buddy and I tried EPKR this past Friday and I might be biased, but to me it didn't really compare to EPR. The chicken was tasty enough, but IMO not as tasty as EPR. I think I have just become accustomed to the cumin in their spice blend. I tried the yucca and beans, my friend had fries and plantains. The yucca was a bit soggy, not crisp as I've had at other joints (such as Pio Pio, when they actually have it), the beans were OK, but needed a ton of salt. I tried my friend's fries and they were no better than EPR's. I will grant that the plantains were pretty tasty.

                                  Anyway, EPR is still king in my mind. I tried that Kenny's Chicken (Trujillo) joint over in Four Corners while EPR was out of commission for the raid and fire, and they were satisfactory--in fact I saw a dude from one of the EPRs working there...maybe that's why theie chicken tasted so good.

                                  Edit: I will grant that EPKR's prices are fair, and they have more sides. However, I think I may have been brainwashed into expecting only fries and slaw, LOL, even though I tried the yucca and beans. In fact, my buddy was going to have fries and slaw before he switched the slaw for plantains (some childhood thing about tostones from his abuelita).

                                  1. re: huesmann

                                    Huesmann, I'm thankful to have all of the choices that the Wheaton triangle offers. The competition keeps everyone on their toes. I've actually been to EPKR and EPR in the last week. Both places are doing a brisk business, which is nice to see in this economy.

                                    For the moment, EPKR is my favorite. But, who knows? Maybe someone else will move into the neighborhood, or EPR will add yuca, or I'll get sick of Peruvian chicken. God Bless America!

                            2. re: xpatticakesx

                              If you read the link that you yourself posted above, "xpatticakesx," you'll see what my "fav pollo place" is.

                              And what makes you think I don't "know of all the possibilities"? I eat nearly every meal out, I know Wheaton, Silver Spring, Rockville, Arlington, DC, Falls Church and Fairfax like the back of my hand, and I have made a point of ferreting out and writing about good and interesting cheap restaurants.

                              Second correction: Cynthia's in Severna Park. I didn't say it didn't offer value, and I didn't say that that's why it didn't make the final cut for the 100 Best. I said it was a factor. Inconsistency was also a factor -- a bigger factor. And the prices, at dinner, are high, a little higher, I think, than what the place can always deliver. (Glad you enjoyed your leftovers, "chowsearch," but that's not necessarily what I'm talking about when I'm talking about value.)

                              And funny you should talk about not knowing all the possibilities; I was the one who enthusiastically reviewed Cynthia's in 2007 and, as editor, decided to feature the restaurant and the couple in a big spread in the magazine.

                            3. So is the Pollo smackdown back on???

                              4 Replies
                                1. re: chowsearch

                                  I am doing my own, slowly but would appreciate some Pollo get-together if you folks are free on some weekend when the weather is warmer...ie is end of April enough of a notice for everyone? We can do the "smackdown" on the web by reports after reports, or gather chicken from all the places in one room, divide, conquer and debate in a get together? Or we can hit one place after another as a group for the full experience until we are full (after probably the second or third store)? Suggestions?

                                  1. re: cfoodie

                                    First we need a list. Originally, I thought Wheaton to Langley Park along University, but it was pointed out Rockville had contenders and sidestreet places like along Colesville and Piney Branch turned up. Then came the EPR bust, and staff and clientele were instant no-shows, making for old pollo and marginalizing many spots. So a list of contenders might be first. Are the Rockville places really up there with EPR quality?

                                    1. re: chowsearch

                                      Yeah - the original list was promising. I'm best very late April or after mid-May - but don't hold up on my account (I wouldn't!)

                              1. Just as EPR got busted in 7/07, we were talking about a University Blvd/Wheaton to Langley Pk smackdown. Now it appears that corridor is only part of the problem and more research is indicated. Please help refine this hypercaloric Maryland sub-regional semi-smackdown trek list as I'm geographically challenged, fear I'm missing some, wonder which can be skipped. I volunteer to start on the eastern end and eat west and maybe we can pool our efforts, agree on what's worthy and go from there--
                                Wheaton--EPRv2, EPRKR, SuperPio,C&J, Chicken Place,is there a Sabroso?
                                Rockville--Don Pollo, C&J, EPPrimo
                                Bethesda-- COTR, Don Pollo, Norky
                                Silver Spring--C&J, Sabroso
                                Four Corners--Trujillo
                                Langley Park--Senor, another SW corner NH/University, 2 or 3 down Piney Branch
                                Laurel/Beltsville--Sardi's, Mega
                                Old Smackdown discussion: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/417468

                                19 Replies
                                1. re: chowsearch

                                  Nice list to start. I think I'd want to personally complete the list. (But first gotta get weight watchers and the cholesterol pills stocked up.)

                                  If anyone has any other good pollo places in the neighborhoods listed above, please add to the list. Of course, one can just go to the phone books, so if you would like to add places, it should at least be GOOD.

                                  1. Should we keep this thread alive for a week or so for additional recommendations or shall we officially start a new thread with the pollo smackdown title so more people can participate with the proper title?

                                  2. If we start the new thread, we need to post on the other Peruvian chicken thread to make sure we have all people on board.

                                  1. re: cfoodie

                                    Good idea--I posted a link to here over there. Maybe we could let new ideas bubble up, firm up a list, and then make a new post. If we lay off the skin, mayo and eat one fry, it will be low cholesterol....rationalizing... Maybe we can get a gym to sponsor us.

                                  2. re: chowsearch

                                    I suggest Pollo Brasero, 14336 Layhill Rd, SS.
                                    http://www.washingtonian.com/restaura...
                                    She Who Must Be Obeyed and I have eaten there a number of times and the chicken is as good as it is anywhere.

                                    1. re: samciti

                                      When it first opened and several other times; the last time we were there was last Sunday. I haven't seen any bad reviews. In fact, one of the Washingtonian reviewers raved about it twice.

                                      1. re: skipper

                                        OK my curiosity got the better of me and I went down to Pollo Brasero. From the outside, you'd swear that it's a Chinese takeout. There was a steady flow of people during dinner time. They ran out of chicken by the time it got to me. So I took the two sides and got started while the chicken cooked. The Yuca fries were the same type in EPRK/Pollo Camparo - soft but excellent when freshly fried. They were fresh. They had good Platano that I would go back for...better than EPRK or PPSC. It was cut into bite size chunks and are sweet. The sauce was nothing to rave about. One tasted like pure Mayo, and the other mild ground green pepper without the kick. I'd say the sauces in EPR/PPSC were much better. 10 minutes later, the fresh chicken comes out. Of course, the skin was crispy, the chicken was hot and juicy. They didn't salt the chicken too much so the skin was very good. On the other hand, the chicken wasn't marinated all that deep, so I had only delicious flavor of the hot chicken without much other flavor. I suspect the breast would be much less tasty when colder. I spoke to the owner afterwards and he said it's been open for 7 months. He did work in restaurants before, but didn't sound like Pollo places. At this point, I think there is probably still a problem with their operations in keeping it a small mom and pop operation so you get inconsistency in service and food quality. I saw like 30 chicken in the rotisserie which I am not sure whether they would sell out tonight, and probably would be dry by tomorrow like other sites mentioned.

                                        Overall, I like the small batches in the chicken and the sides, keeping them fresh. The chicken tasted standard. But if you want fresh chicken, maybe try there. I would not nominate it for the Smackdown list yet, due to the far out location. The Platanos I would go back for. I suspect the reason why EPRK was so raved, unlike PPSC was the fact that it's still a small store. So they take one chicken out at a time, so you are likely to get fresh piping hot chicken with crispy skin.

                                        We might have to standardize the Smack Down to freshly cooked chicken, half hour old chicken, or somewhere in between to get a fair sense of what's going on. But then, it invalidates the fact that these small places are able to more consistently serve piping hot chicken.

                                        1. re: cfoodie

                                          Cfoodie,

                                          I'm glad you mentioned Pollo Campero. I've eaten there a few times and its not bad. Though, I'm still scratching my head about their business model. The chicken is delicious, but in the end it's just really tasty American-style fried chicken. There's nothing particularly ethnic about it, other than the fact that they offer a few Latin-American touches (i.e., tortillas, salsa, horchata, maranon, etc.).

                                          Their yuca was a big surprise for me because I'd never had processed, mass-produced yuca fries. I could tell that these were made in a factory and mass-extruded into uniform sizes/shapes. They weren't bad, but they lacked the freshness of the real thing.

                                          I wouldn't mind eating at Pollo Campero more often, but to tell you the truth I find it a bit pricey for common fried chicken. Without a doubt, its head and shoulders above the cost of KFC or Popeyes. It's not quite unique enough to warrant the extra $2-3.

                                          By the way, I read the story about this chain in the Post. It's actually a Central American (I'm thinking El Salvador) corporation that has declared its intention to compete directly with KFC. I love competition, but if these guys want to have a chance, they need to lower their prices a bit.

                                          1. re: Sean D

                                            I'm not a fan of Pollo Campero, but there's a trick to it. Buy it and put it in the fridge, eating it the next day (or at least hours later). THEN it's good. The honey or whatever sweetness comes out a bit more, and IIRC (it's been a few years) it tastes more like home-made chicken.

                                            If you searched and found posts from when it opened in the area, you'll see more talk on this. Someone else posted and I tried it out for my second time there.

                                            But still - even with that - I haven't been in at least 4 years.

                                            1. re: Dennis S

                                              Ok, after I went to El Pollo Primo today, I realized what I had at Campero was GRILLED chicken, not rotisserie. Then they have the FRIED chicken also at Campero, which I have not tried.

                                              1. Dennis, which Camparo chicken should one put in the frige for the next day?
                                              2. Sean, did you have their fried or grilled chicken?

                                              1. re: cfoodie

                                                Cfoodie, I've had the Pollo Campero fried chicken about 4 times and their grilled chicken in a wrap once. I've eaten at both the Wheaton location and the Langley Park location.

                                                One thing I really like seeing when I go there is the chicken breading tumbler. (It's like a small cement mixer that they use to coat the fried chicken. Very cool. I've never seen one anywhere else.)

                                                1. re: Sean D

                                                  Sean,
                                                  I'll have to check out the tumbler...which Campero is better in your opinion?
                                                  So many pollo, so little time....

                                                  1. re: cfoodie

                                                    I've had better luck at the Wheaton location, Cfoodie. The Langley Park location is a bit more rowdy.

                                                2. re: cfoodie

                                                  The Campero I've been to is the one in Herndon. Fried chicken. If they've added other styles, that's new to me.

                                                  1. re: Dennis S

                                                    The Pollo Campero chain added grilled (rotisserie?) chicken to the menu, last year I believe.

                                                    It was ok - the fried chicken is the appeal there, IMHO. And I like their non-traditional take on pintos.

                                                3. re: Dennis S

                                                  Very interesting, Dennis. (Slightly scary, too! Sounds like something a hunter does to freshly killed game!) LOL. Thanks for the hint.

                                        2. re: chowsearch

                                          chowsearch - Pollo Trujillo doesn't exist anymore. The owner of Pollo Trujillo used to work in the EPR in Arlington before opening up Trujillo, but he had to sell the business and he is actually back working at the EPR in Arlington again (he was on TV - Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations). Pollo Trujillo was better than most other copycat pollos but the service and availability of food was hit or miss. The new owners and new store called "Kenny's Peruvian Chicken" is nothing like the old Pollo Trujillo.. and actually they are selling their business too! I guess that location is jinxed...

                                          1. re: samciti

                                            Thanks for the heads up on Kenny's. I passed by there every day but don't see many people. I feel sad for the chicken place as any small business owner might have had saved for a number of years to get a shot of owning their own. Never ate there and don't even know where to park. Maybe should try it as moral support before anything happens.

                                            Brasero...that's way up there... Will try to check it out next week...

                                            As for laying off the skin and Mayo....that's the good part and gives one the motivation to exercise.

                                            Can somebody suggest THE EPR that has the best chicken as the one in Wheaton seems to have gone down in quality?

                                            Thanks.

                                            1. re: samciti

                                              Thanks--exactly what we need to optimize our search. Too bad about Trujillo--the parking wasn't evident, must have been in back. Maybe we shouldn't exclude places that can rise to great heights, but we can probably all agree we need to smack expired-pollo-sellers to the canvas. Maybe we'll figure out the best fresh-bird-times at some of the variable places.

                                              1. re: chowsearch

                                                Went to El Pollo Primo today. Their grilled chicken was, not rotisserie. Not as tender. I went at 2PM, so the chicken was sitting around, but was still not dry. The flavor was good, not totally soaked in. The chicken standard. Nothing to write home about, unless I've became numb to the taste of chicken, having so much over the last few weeks. The sauce was a mix of different tastes, but the flavor did not jump out at me. There was no Mayo. Guess I am getting used to the Super Chicken/ EPR sauce. The yuca fries was a mix between PPSC and EPRK that still retained their stringy strings, but not in large lumps like others. Somehow, the oil didn't taste good and there were a lot of loose "breading" attached to the surface. It tasted greasy and I rate their Yuca fries the worst I've had so far. Otherwise, the corn and cole slaw was standard (yes, I had to buy Yuca fries saperate as it was 2PM with no fresh yuca fries).

                                                You got it right, they are not peruvian. They are El Salvadorian. Didn't have time to ask what the difference between the chicken are (the sauce?) as the food inspector was busy at work to ensure that I didn't have to go visit Shady Grave hospital. But it was their relaxed attitude towards the food inspector that told me a viit to the ER, or worse yet, being closed for the Pollo smackdown was not in store.

                                                1. re: cfoodie

                                                  We need that food inspector for smackdown security!

                                          2. So when's the smackdown? I'm down to give it try!

                                            14 Replies
                                            1. re: VeniVidiEdi

                                              We're in the list assembly stage, got any to add or subtract?

                                              1. re: chowsearch

                                                There is also Inka Pollo on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. I say skip Pollo Campero because that's more like fast food fried chicken, not peruvian chicken. My two cents.

                                                1. re: VeniVidiEdi

                                                  Correction:

                                                  If you read the link that you yourself posted above, "xpatticakesx," you'll see what my "fav pollo place" is.

                                                  And what makes you think I don't "know of all the possibilities"? I eat nearly every meal out, I know Wheaton, Silver Spring, Rockville, Arlington, DC, Falls Church and Fairfax like the back of my hand, and I have made a point of ferreting out and writing about good and interesting cheap restaurants.

                                                  Second correction: Cynthia's in Severna Park. I didn't say it didn't offer value, and I didn't say that that's why it didn't make the final cut for the 100 Best. I said it was a factor. Inconsistency was also a factor -- a bigger factor. And the prices, at dinner, are high, a little higher, I think, than what the place can always deliver. (Glad you enjoyed your leftovers, "chowsearch," but that's not necessarily what I'm talking about when I'm talking about value.)

                                                  And funny you should talk about not knowing all the possibilities; I was the one who enthusiastically reviewed Cynthia's in 2007 and, as editor, decided to feature the restaurant and the couple in a big spread in the magazine.

                                                  1. re: Todd Kliman

                                                    Todd, with all due respect we are merely trying to have fun putting together people and a list for "El Pollo" Smackdown. If you are here to advertise yourself, you have certainly done so. If you can contribute to the list, with your opinions, please do so HERE. If I am here for "professional opinion" I can google for 10 times the info, or hire a group of professional tasters like they do in Michelins and go down the list.

                                                    I believe the point of "El Pollo" Smackdown is to have a little fun among the "hobbyist" tasters like myself, in meeting other like minds over Pollo, which we love so much. Having a group activity like this, pools all the intelligence of the group together, respecting the differing opinions and perspectives, as well as limitations of individuals, in not being able to taste it all under all hours and conditions of the restaurants. I have so far enjoyed the chat, and very much look forward to actually putting the list together, and meeting the guys in the Smackdown...probably to the discontent of my stomach and arteries... So if you'd like to help out, I'd very much appreciate it, and perhaps look forward to meeting you out in the field during the "smackdown."

                                                    1. re: cfoodie

                                                      Yeah, what he said. We are merely agendaless self-effacing pollo researchers in search of good bird. I'm trying to get by all the east end ones to get the list more formalized. VeniVE, how is that Inka Pollo?

                                                        1. re: Sean D

                                                          Let's have more reviews? I still haven't had the time to try PKR, so I'm looking for feedback. Anyone else think this place is top dog?

                                                          1. re: beauxgoris

                                                            I still have yet to go back to PKR for a fair second try, which I plan to do next week. I think the secret is to get the chicken when it's hot off the rotisserie. If you are going for lunch on a specific day/time next week, let me know....

                                                            On a second thought, if you are up for Inka Pollo, I am also ready...

                                                            Well, I've got to eventually check back at Camparo for their fried chicken...I think that's the better of the two...

                                                            So many pollo, so little time (stomach)....

                                                        2. re: cfoodie

                                                          Not advertising myself -- defending myself against misinformed opinionizing. That's all.

                                                          I'm a Chowhound fan.

                                                        3. re: samciti

                                                          Let's focus on the pollo and avoid saying anything to provoke sensitive people who make money writing about food. We just want to spend money eating food. We don't want any pollo places that might have given the bird to some newspaper pundit getting a bad review or anything. Anyone been to two tiny apparently new NH Ave places--Pollo Wow near the SE corner NH/University or Los Pollos, SW corner NH/410?

                                                          1. re: chowsearch

                                                            Alright...those are in my neighborhood. I'll try to check them out this week.

                                                            Is this about time to finalize the list, and move on to the next thread of "El Pollo Smackdown!"

                                                            The weather is warmer, and I am getting excited.

                                                            1. re: cfoodie

                                                              I'm going to make a final NH Ave and Piney Branch run to make an east end list. I've driven by Sabroso 4 times this week at what should have been peak dinner hours and it's always empty--is it only a lunch hot spot, or maybe the half hour before a movie at AFI? This is a bit off-map, but anybody been to Sardi Pollo or any other in Beltsville?

                                                            2. re: chowsearch

                                                              Guess I need to do some research before I go. I went to Senor chicken on NW corner of NH/University instead. Dry chicken, flavor not soaked in. The skin was mushy as they keep the cooked chicken in a sealed cooler. The yuca was cold, and chunky (kinda taste like big pieces of potato) rather than crunchy. Sauces had spice, but no flavor. The best part was the salad...the dressing was really good. This is at 6PM dinner time. I don't plan to recommend it on the list, but will have to be back the second time.

                                                              1. re: cfoodie

                                                                Thanks for taking one for the cause. Senor always seems a little iffy.

                                                    2. I have tried Kiki Riki twice now. The first time three weeks ago at lunch time the chicken was dry-ish. I usually order a quarter dark. The guy was just hacking up the chicken. The yuca fries were great. Soft on the inside, a very light, crisp coating on the outside. The salad was very fresh tasting.

                                                      Yesterday, at lunch time, I got another quarter dark. There was a lot of chicken already cut up and put in an enclosed warming bin. It was dry. The yuca fries were dry and had no "coating" on the outside - just like your standard yuca fries at most other places.

                                                      This place seems to be inconsistent. There were customers streaming in and out, but the place was not packed, so turnover is not the issue.

                                                      7 Replies
                                                      1. re: comestibles

                                                        Well folks...it's happened. I've had my first mediocre experience at EPKR. The chicken was still great, but the yuca wasn't. It was old and chewy. I haven't given up on them, but I'll be watching extra close next time I go.

                                                        One of the biggest challenges for a restaurant is maintaining quality. Not sure what this latest development signifies (if, it signifies anything at all). Competition is a good thing, in this regard.

                                                        1. re: Sean D

                                                          This is why the smackdown will be so useful--post-brasa pollo dwell time seems to be the main issue for end-user perceived quality, and after we settle on a list of best places, maybe top ten out of the maybe twenty in MD, crowdsourced research will show whether the birds are only good at peak rush, all the time, or no logical explanation. EPR/Clarendon and the old pre-bust+fire EPR/Wheaton have been the only places good every time for me, even at closing time, but I'll make sure to loudly announce my $20 bills at the former. I'm hoping to have a NH Ave/Piney Branch list of suspects this weekend. Heard good things about Sardi's too.

                                                          1. re: chowsearch

                                                            I went by Sardi's today about 3PM. The Pizza Hut interior is pretty nicely setup for a chicken place. I enjoy the decor better than any other chicken place I've been to. The chicken is similar style to PPSC, where they keep hot chicken in the glass case, so you'll less likely wind up with crispy skin. As it was 3PM, I was anticipating leftovers, and there was. I took quarter chicken dark, Yuca fries, and they had Platanos as side also. The drink prices are more fair than others at $1.55 per softdrink. As I declined soft drink, they kindly offered me water..pretty refreshing for a chicken place. The chicken was moist and flavorful. The skin was a bit more salty than I liked, but that's okay. The chicken is much on the level of PPSC/EPR...but I have to try the breast as the ultimate judge. The Yuca fries were PPSC style, which were good...it had a good flavor that I am suspecting that it was fried in some lard. It was warm by 3PM, but still good. The platano was also good. They had three sauces, and all theree were very flavorful, with the green quite spicy and all filled to the top of the cup. The service was very friendly. The employees looked happy.

                                                            So far, this is one place that I am quite satisfied. It has all I wanted from PPSC, with extra Platanos, free water and friendly service. Price is a dollar more, but hey, I don't care. So I am ranking this on top of my list for my regular meals. Thanks for the Sardi's recommendation. I will keep moving!

                                                            1. re: cfoodie

                                                              Went to Don Pollo bethesda this week and was pretty happy with what we got. The 1/2 chx with plank fries (crispy) and coleslaw (cold and crunchy). The chicken was juicy and not dry or over cooked, although the breast portion seemed a little meagre. Maybe it was just a smallish chicken, it seems hit and miss about chicken portion size.

                                                          2. re: Sean D

                                                            I ate there again tonight. Everything was great again. Still...it's good to keep an eye on things. One issue that I would point out with smackdowns - you have to have some way to get a random sample of their product without them knowing about it. If you don't do this, they take extra trouble (that may not be typical of their normal customer service) to make your food better. This isn't a very credible way to compare products - of any type. Any ideas on how you would do this on a pollo smackdown?

                                                            1. re: Sean D

                                                              Which place was this? After a bit, we'll have a complete list of MD pollo places, try to pare it down to maybe a top half, then maybe get as many reports from as many eaters going to them randomly and at their leisure so we can learn about variability and if some can't handle rush hour or leave dry birds in the display case all afternoon, then maybe when we have a really select group we could agree on, we could see if we needed a group visit. I imagine once we get to that stage, the select group and all the info we have on them will be enough to fortify our future chowing, and a group visit might be only celebratory, not for research. That way, the crowdsourced info will be anonymously gathered, so not tainted by counterperson countermeasures subsequent to recognition of smackdownage in progress.

                                                              1. re: chowsearch

                                                                It was EPKR, Chowsearch. Yes, we need to have some experimental control measures. Sounds like things are shaping up for something truly interesting.

                                                        2. Finally made it to EPKR. Got a take out bird with black beans and cole slaw for $15.00. The bird was flavorful with a well balanced spice rub. Much better than my experience at the old EPR of which I have not been a fan. The slaw was good, the beans better. The green sauce was very good while the white tasted like Miracle Whip & mustard. All in all, a winner with the only complaint being the bird was a little small for $15.00. With El Pollo Sabroso having gone downhill so far in recent days, this is now my #1 choice in Wheaton but I have yet to try a couple of the newer joints.

                                                          1. Would it be safe to say it's time to change to a new Pollo Smackdown thread, and perhaps slow down on the EPR/EPKR/PPSC and other majors on the list, to make stomach room to try the "unknowns" so we can decide to add or remove them from the list.

                                                            7 Replies
                                                            1. re: cfoodie

                                                              I'm hoping to have the list together this week, and I was thinking those mainstream knowns of the more upscale west end of this area were less interesting too...

                                                              1. re: chowsearch

                                                                there are over 20 pollo a la brasa places in Md. 10 out of the 20 just suck so dont even bother. I would suggest composing a list of the top 10 looking at all reviews and websites (chow)(yelp) also. Come up with catagories such as Taste, texture, moistness, smell, of chicken. availablity of sides or side choices, sauces, cleanliness of facilities, atmosphere, politeness of employees and give points for each catigory. Chicken place with most points is the overall winner.
                                                                or why not have a pollo a la brasa throwdown. Contact the owners of the restaurants and conduct a pollo cook off. I'm sure that would be fun.

                                                                1. re: philjr73

                                                                  Philijr73, please give me a list of the ones that such so I don't waste my time. I think the joy is in trying out new places and hopefully discover that "magic" hole in the wall place. I propose this in two phases.

                                                                  First phase, try out as many places and pick good candidates/weed out bad ones...which we are doing.

                                                                  Second phase, finalize to 10 places, and have a throw down...however we do it.

                                                                  1. re: cfoodie

                                                                    East-side/University Blvd. report:

                                                                    Riggs Rd. area:
                                                                    --Pollo Primo2: 1835 Univ, SW cor at Riggs--office shopping center with parking tightness, pollo not a la brasa, but a la parilla--on the grill--which looked very good but not tried due to personal space limitations, need to go back; somewhat fast foodish interior but fairly dark and intimate, not seedy.
                                                                    Don Pollo, 2065 University, well-capitalized big new drivethru, looks like ex-KFC completely overhauled, busy even at 2, good flavor and moistness due to turnover, 7 tables of senior contractor types looking very pleased, good parking, in lot of Cococabana, near DunkinDonuts, 1/2 mi.w of the real Ledo's, 1/8 mi. east of Riggs, south side. Sterile fast-food interior with big windows mitigated by snappy salsa music. Going back.

                                                                    NH Ave. area:
                                                                    --Senor Chicken, NW cor. NH/Univ in shopping ctr: looked sad, beat-up, 1 table at noon, no line. Didn't eat.
                                                                    --Pollo Wow, 7643 NH, SE cor.NH/Univ. Completely full at noon, which means 3 people at 3 tiny tables, charming bare-bones really little mom and pop effort, with cheerful Gabrielle offering on-the-spot dance lessons; chicken moist and flavorful but fresh yucca fries had to be requested as original had dried out. Steady carryout, no line. Was giving out $1 off coupons out front. Was another pollo place before. Will go back soon.
                                                                    --Los Pollos, 6842 NH below 410, empty, sad, no customers except those who lived in the booths, not tried.
                                                                    --Pollo Granjero, 6838 NH, gone, another place now.

                                                                    Piney Branch area:
                                                                    --El Pollo Sabrosa--8482 Piney Branch, fairly cute mom-n-pop, no customers at 130 but looked and smelled good, going back.
                                                                    --unknown unfound at 8523 Piney Branch, online research says it's there and named Pollo Campero, but many misnamed places turned up due to imprecise tagging by bloggers, may not be there at all...?
                                                                    --La Pollera--8736 Piney Branch immediately S. of University, west side, hard to park with several other Latino places; extremely cute, very clean blue-tiled spot with tables suitable for a date, at 115 pollo held in styrofoam cooler, pollo was pleasant, hot and moist but mild flavor, sides cooked fresh, worth going back to taste at rush pending parking issue.
                                                                    --Chicken Rico--1425 Univeristy east of PBranch, south side in big office strip center. About 1 year old, well-capitalized, flashy, clean, very well-dressed set of complex sides, 5 tables at 2 pm, best yellow sauce, chicken hot and moist but flavor very mild. Worth going back. Unrelated to CRico in Baltimore.

                                                                    Any reports on these, did I miss any in this quadrant?

                                                                    1. re: huesmann

                                                                      So I had occasion to drive up to Baltimore Saturday and stopped at Sardi's for lunch. The chicken was pretty tasty. They have some decent variety in their sides. I tried the fried yucca and fried plantains. The plantains were acceptable but the yucca had almost no taste, and was chopped too coarsely for my taste. It was like each piece was an inch and a half thick, and was like eating cardboard (or it would have been if they hadn't had ketchup). IMO, the chicken was better than EPKR, but not as good as EPR.

                                                                      1. re: huesmann

                                                                        Huesmann, how do you compare Yuca for Pio Pio superchicken vs. EPKR vs. Sardi's?

                                                                        1. re: cfoodie

                                                                          I would say that I have had better yuca at Pio Pio.

                                                              2. You guys are AMAZING!!! Hitting multiple chicken places in one day, doing the hit n' run thing.

                                                                I went to Chicken WOW at corner of University and NH. It's a small mom and pop store, with 3 table for two, run by a couple. I ordered my quarter chicken with Yuca and corn. So I sat down with my chicken and corn as Yuca needed to be fried. I saw this guy sitting next to me, so I said "Hey, what do you think about chicken here?" and he turned out to be Chowsearch!!! How awesome!!! Turns out that he is doing the "10 mile run today" while I am just hitting one spot at a time.

                                                                Chicken is decent, moist, flavorful, but not down to the bone. Still not bad, on EPKR scale. The Yuca fries was okay, a bit worse than the other fries I had...don't know why...?missing the coating? Chowsearch tried one of my hot fried Yuca, as he was given cold ones. He said it's better than what he had. But in a couple of minutes, I felt didn't taste good anymore. After chowsearch left, I asked for a coupon, and they said they had ran out of it...but I still saw a stack stuck at the counter. No sympathy for Cfoodie. Service, decent...but maybe a little too mom-and-pop small business style.

                                                                My respects to Philjr and Chowsearch for risking their lives by loading their arteries up with chicken cholesterol, in the name of saving lost souls from bad Pollo.

                                                                I look forward to seeing you guys on the road!!!

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: cfoodie

                                                                  My favorite has always been Crisp & Juicy, the one in Rockville Pike! though i've tried other ones. But I'll give this Pollo Kiki Riki a try.
                                                                  Thank you!!!

                                                                  1. re: elirqv

                                                                    I'd highly recommend the Don Pollo in Bethesda, as well. Kiki Riki is still good and I've always liked Crisp and Juicy.

                                                                    The biggest issue is finding a place that does it all well. Some (like El Pollo Rico) make great chicken, but really lag when it comes to side dishes. Others make great tasting chicken, but they make tons of it and let it sit around and lose it's crisp. Thus far, I've found the best overall meals from Don Pollo and Kiki Riki.