HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >

Discussion

Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken

I was wondering if you could help me find a good place for Peruvian rotisserie chicken. Back when I lived in DC, we had this place El Pollo Rico in Wheaton, MD, where basically all they made was this amazing wood-fired rotisserie chicken that they would serve with plain steamed corn tortillas, a garlicky mayo, and salsa verde. You could smell the smoky deliciousness from blocks away and there was always a line out the door of this super hole-in-the-wall. A bottle of Jarritos and a half chicken with sides was one of my top ten go-to meals to hit the spot. Is there anything like this in or around Boston? El Pollo Rico spawned 4 or 5 competitors in the DC area with nearly identical menus (including a place right next door), none of which rivaled the quality of the original. I would drive up to an hour to have something even similar.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. There are several places in and around Boston, none requiring a drive. Rincon Limeno in East Boston gets most of the buzz, but Maccu Picchu Charcoal Chicken and Grill in Union Square Somerville and El Cafetal in Union Square Allston are both good.

    -----
    Rincon Limeno
    409 Chelsea St, Boston, MA 02128

    El Cafetal
    479 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jenny Ondioline

      El Cafetal in Allston is actually now a branch of El Chalan, mentioned a couple of times in other posts below.

      1. re: Allstonian

        it used to be both el cafetal *and* el chalan. they had a colombian menu and a peruvian menu. has this changed?

    2. Pollos a la Brasa El Chalan in Chelsea and East Boston (charcoal), Machu Picchu Pollos en La Brasa (charcoal)Somerville, Pollos a la Brasa Betos (charcoal I think) East Boston, and Rincon Limeno (electric) East Boston all have Peruvian rotisserie chicken, there are lots more if you include Columbian, Dominican, and Salvadoran options but not many charcoal rotisseries among them. Between El Chalan and Machu Picchu I prefer El Chalan, but I haven't tried Betos or Limeno for the chicken yet. I think the poster El Guapo compared Betos with some of the others in East Boston so would be worth seeking out their posts.

      -----
      Rincon Limeno
      409 Chelsea St, Boston, MA 02128

      Machu Picchu
      307 Somerville Ave, Somerville, MA 02143

      1. Rosticeria Jalisco in Eastie.

        -----
        Rosticeria Jalisco
        293 Bennington St, Boston, MA 02128

        1 Reply
        1. re: Taralli

          In the same vein (a Central American roast chicken joint) is Rosticeria Cancun in Maverick square. They have a newer, larger establishment closer to Central Square on Meridian Street, but I still love the hole in the wall (literally) feel of the original. Anyway, its been a while since I had their chicken, but I used to love it. Came with rice, beans, salad and tortillas.

        2. i like the pollos a la brasa (peruvian rotisserie chicken) at el chalan in east boston and machu picchu charcoal chicken and grill in somerville the best

          7 Replies
          1. re: galangatron

            I am addicted to Machu Picchu Charcoal Chicken - Mike, take note that there is a main restaurant in Union- Machu Picchu - serving all things Peruvian, as well as the smaller outlet MP Charcoal Chicken, also in Union, also owned by the same folks as the main restaurant. I *think* you can get the pollos a la brasa at both locations, but I have only ever gone to MPCC.

            -----
            Machu Picchu
            307 Somerville Ave, Somerville, MA 02143

            1. re: Bob Dobalina

              I believe you mean in Union, not in Davis?

              1. re: djd

                oops - thanks for catching that! Fixed!

            2. re: galangatron

              The first time I tried the Machu Picchu pollo a la brasa I loved it, but lately I've found it be almost unbearably salty. Anyone else have the same problem? I love my salt, but this stuff can be over the top.

              -----
              Machu Picchu
              307 Somerville Ave, Somerville, MA 02143

              1. re: bella_sarda

                Had a whole chicken a few weeks ago and it tasted the same to me, but maybe I am just getting used to the surreptitious sodium surge.

                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                  If I can still put on my shoes the next day, I figure it's all good.

                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    I still like Ricon Limone in Eastie, didn't taste salty al all, well except for the salt I put on the massive plate of fires. YUM! salt makes everything taste better.

            3. Thank you, this is fantastic! I'm going to have to try them all! Probably will start with El Chalan first since it's the closest and then go from there...

              6 Replies
              1. re: Mike5966

                and you'll - report your findings, hopefully?!

                1. re: okra

                  I consider it a noble mission.

                  1. re: Mike5966

                    First of all - thank you all for the info! Like MIke I just moved here and have been craving Pollo Rico. So I went through and made a list of all the joints mentioned in this thread and plan to hit one today to start! Enjoy! - James

                    Machu Picchu
                    307 Somerville Ave, Somerville, MA 02143

                    El Cafetal
                    479 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134

                    Rincon Limeno
                    409 Chelsea St, Boston, MA 02128

                    Rosticeria Jalisco
                    293 Bennington St, Boston, MA 02128

                    POLLOS A LA BRASA BETO’S
                    69 Bennington St.
                    East Boston, MA 02128
                    Phone: 617-561-6005 |

                    Pollos a la Brasa El Chalan1
                    22 Washington Ave
                    Chelsea, MA 02150-3905
                    (617) 884-3691

                    Pollos a la Brasa El Chalan2
                    405 Chelsea Street
                    Boston, MA 02128
                    (617) 567-9452
                    Pollos a la brasa El Chalan 3
                    479 Cambridge St.
                    Allston MA. 02134
                    Telephone: 617-789-4009

                    -----
                    Rincon Limeno
                    409 Chelsea St, Boston, MA 02128

                    Machu Picchu
                    307 Somerville Ave, Somerville, MA 02143

                    Rosticeria Jalisco
                    293 Bennington St, Boston, MA 02128

                    El Cafetal
                    479 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134

                    1. re: jwfignewton

                      Nice to see them on a list together. Now post the list again, but with your reviews. There are 7 listed (2 are the same place), so at 2 a day, I expect your reviews posted in 3.5 days. Chop chop!

                      Just kidding, but I do look forward to some reviews.

                      1. re: jwfignewton

                        Pollos a la brasa El Chalan 3 and El Cafetal are the same place - it used to be El Cafetal and is now El Chalan (although they still have some El Cafetal signage, I don't think that any of the old Colombian menu remains.)

                        1. re: jwfignewton

                          Be sure to go to the Machu Picchu outlet with the charcoal chicken (called Machu Picchu Charcoal Chicken and Grill and located at 25 Union Square), not the larger restaurant about a block away on Somerville Ave.

                          Just picked up a bird last week and it was delicious as always. My favorite order is half a chicken, with rice and beans, hold the salad. Extra aji sauce. Last time as I waited for my order the friendly waiter gave me a little mango smoothie to tide me over. Really nice people and VERY good chicken.

                  2. It's been over 6 months since I first posted this but I wanted to give my quick report on my first foray into the Boston world of Peruvian charcoal rotisserie.

                    As the weather gets warmer, nearly every time I step outside I get a hankering for grilled meat and charcoal. Rolled up to Pollos a la Brasa El Chalan in East Boston one Saturday and it hit the spot. You can always smell a good Peruvian charcoal rotisserie place from blocks away and this was no exception. 10 tables or so in two hole-in-the wall rooms, and an intermittent succession of patrons who all seemed to go there regularly. I had half a chicken with fries and salad.

                    Taste was delicious, right amount of spice and salt, nice and hot. Only complaint is the white meat was rather dry. Next time I'll probably order two quarters of dark meat. The mayo/green chile sauce (I think it's called aji) was delicious. Fries were crispy and good enough.

                    I got the bug again to go try more places. There really is no taste like it on earth. Macchu Picchu is probably next.

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: Mike5966

                      Do try Machu Picchu and let us know what you think. I went recently with friends and we couldn't undertand why we had waited so long to go back.

                      -----
                      Machu Picchu
                      307 Somerville Ave, Somerville, MA 02143

                      1. re: GretchenS

                        I am headed there tonight!

                        I realized there are two Machu Picchus in Somerville... glad I looked at the menus online because only one of them is the chicken place.

                        1. re: Mike5966

                          p.s. i mumike , after MANY YEARS of wkly supplies from Machu P, we finally, a few months ago, did a roast chicken foray into Chelsea. Did you ever see the Globe/devra first piece on this topic? That's what guided us. We ended up w/ El Chalan top flavor, for us, and MP close behind. But MP is much easier for us, plus we usually get their great huge orangey colored ( pork juice flavored) tamales and their pork and sweet potato sandwiches- to fill in other niches during the week.(they reheat well!) *btw, their fries are awful so we never get them.

                          p.s. i must have missed your original Pollo Rico post. HA! My parents LIVED for Pollo Rico nights (Clarendon, Arlington one)!; instilled the jones in me.

                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                            Too funny that your folks were Pollo regulars. I have no doubt in my mind that I have shared a meal or two with them in Clarendon (I lived there for a long time - very dangerous!)

                            I honestly haven't had a chance to hit any of these joints yet, sadly enough, but having just hit Pollo back in DC am inspired and should be in Boston soon. are there any that haven't been reviewed yet from this list I put together a while ago?

                            Machu Picchu
                            307 Somerville Ave, Somerville, MA 02143

                            El Cafetal
                            479 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134

                            Rincon Limeno
                            409 Chelsea St, Boston, MA 02128

                            Rosticeria Jalisco
                            293 Bennington St, Boston, MA 02128

                            POLLOS A LA BRASA BETO’S
                            69 Bennington St.
                            East Boston, MA 02128
                            Phone: 617-561-6005 |

                            Pollos a la Brasa El Chalan1
                            22 Washington Ave
                            Chelsea, MA 02150-3905
                            (617) 884-3691

                            Pollos a la Brasa El Chalan2
                            405 Chelsea Street
                            Boston, MA 02128
                            (617) 567-9452
                            Pollos a la brasa El Chalan 3
                            479 Cambridge St.
                            Allston MA. 02134
                            Telephone: 617-789-4009

                            Rosticeria Jalisco
                            293 Bennington St, Boston, MA 02128 Remove
                            El Cafetal
                            479 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134 Remove
                            Rincon Limeno
                            409 Chelsea St, Boston, MA 02128

                            -----
                            Rincon Limeno
                            409 Chelsea St, Boston, MA 02128

                            Machu Picchu
                            307 Somerville Ave, Somerville, MA 02143

                            Rosticeria Jalisco
                            293 Bennington St, Boston, MA 02128

                            El Cafetal
                            479 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134

                            1. re: jwfignewton

                              El Cafetal is gone, unfortunately. Closed a few months ago.

                              -----
                              El Cafetal
                              479 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134

                              1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                Also, El Cafetal = Pollos a la Brasa El Chalan 3. BY either name, it is no more. (BTW, jwfignewton, your last three places listed - Rosticeria Jalisco, El Cafetal, and Rincon Limeno - are duplicates from the top part of the list.)

                              2. re: jwfignewton

                                jw, this is the devra first piece i mentioned, so you can cross check to answer your question. On CH i have not heard of any other great chicken places that are not on this list%3 http://articles.boston.com/2009-04-29... p.s. ah, clarendon.one of the few places that actually looks MUCH better now than it did long ago. yech. Notable as the witness to my years of eating SO much of Mario's that I couldn't eat pizza for many years after that. Anyway, long live Pollo Rico!!

                                1. re: opinionatedchef

                                  Thanks for the link. Looks like Devra First's panel of judges agrees that El Chalan is more boldly spiced but drier, and MPCC is more moist but a little less flavorful.

                                  Still haven't tried Beto's yet but that is next on the list... I CANNOT WAIT.

                                  1. re: Mike5966

                                    Mike you can usually ask for different doneness too -- crispier, drier, moist, although ordering rear quarters is also a good idea. My preference is with the peruvian chicken places, but if you want to make your search perpetual, there are a lot of Dominican rotisserie places too!

                                    If you are going to be in the area for a whole another thing you might want to check out is "frango no churrasco"/"frango de churrasco" which is Portuguese grilled chicken. Its a small spatchcocked chicken, seasoned with garlic, laurel, some piri piri, "colorau" (paprika), sometimes other things and then grilled. JJ's in Somerville is probably the best local option, althought there are a lot better options on the South Coast which use charcoal whereas most up here do not. On the South Coast (New Bedford/Fall River) I particularly like churrascaria aveirense, although unfortunately they have a long list of specials so most of the time when I get there I don't end up eating chicken (pork belly, beef ribs, cod cheeks all in recent visits). I guess that is what to go is for....

                                    1. re: itaunas

                                      We're headed down to new bedford for the july 4th folk festival which we never miss. Mimo's is our regular spot for pork and clams (way better than Antonio's) but we'd love more places to try. I'd never heard of this restnt til you mentioned it, and we'd like to go there. Would you plse tell a bit more about how they do the ribs and the pork belly?Do you consider the chicken as flavorful as Machu Picchu's? Also, any idea what their pork sandwich is like?( We usually bring our own lunches because the food concessions are so bad there but it would be so much easier if we could find some good places to pick up lunch down there.) If you have any other suggestions , would greatly appreciate it. Thanks much.

                                      mimo's:
                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/641641

                                      -----
                                      Mimo Restaurant
                                      1528 Acushnet Ave, New Bedford, MA 02746

                                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                                        opinionatedchef, glad to hear you are interested in trying more Portuguese restaurants. Its a shame that Antonio's gets so much attention, but its also served to introduce a lot of people to Portuguese food.

                                        For a picnic in New Bedford, I am not certain I could get past Sid Wainer. A perfectly aged Azorean cheese and various European cheeses, local south coast butter, local greens (maybe bring your own dressing), cured meats. They are presumably closed on July 4th, though.

                                        C.A. is a small mostly takeout restaurant hidden behind Dina's Cafe on Sawyer (they opened another location, but I haven't been). They have tidied it up, but its still flourescent lights and formica tables so just feels like a takeout joint. The essence of the menu is the grilled chicken and pork spare ribs, plus a soup of the day, but they have a list of specials which include meats and seafood which is where the pork belly and beef ribs sometimes come in. As far as the ribs and pork belly, its not necessarily a place you go looking for the smoke ring (they _may_ parcook some items), but the former are toothsome and not overcooked. Pork belly that I had was roasted (not fried like torresmo) and skin off. Its hard to beat Peruvian chicken with good aji sauces, but its typical portuguese spices garlic, bay leaf, paprika, with a bit of piri piri spice. Remember its spatchcocked, so its more like chicken under a brick than rotisserie chicken and the birds tend to be on the smaller side. Beef ribs were cut thinly like LA galbi and grilled. But don't overlook fried items on their specials menu, including seafood. The menu changes a lot, so you will get seasonal grilled and fried seafoods (including the occasional Azorean specialty even though its Continental Portuguese). Chicken and Ribs come out quickly, specials take a bit more time, and they offer a decent selection of half bottles of wine. I haven't had the sandwiches, so no direct opinion. For takeout I might suggest the chicken and ribs, but maybe substitute a salad for their fries. However, eating in and trying their specials is the best option.

                                        C.A. is close to Acushnet ave, so I like to stop by Chocolate com Pimenta (a bakery) afterwards. Continental Market also on Sawyer is good for gift items and a possible stop for some picnic supplies too. One restaurant you could add to your list is M&C Cafe which does a combination of Portuguese and Portuguese American dishes, including some unusual sandwiches (I would suggest them over CA a sandwich lunch but some of them don't travel like cacoila, CA's sandwich probably does). New Bedford has lots of other restaurants too which aren't Portuguese and also its a shame to go down there without checking out Fall River in some fashion whether its for Portuguese or just other local foods. I also noticed that Porta da Cidade in Dartmouth (no recent experience with their Portuguese food) seems to be doing a clam boil as a special some days.

                            2. re: Mike5966

                              They're both owned by the same people, and both have delicious food. Only difference is that one is a take-out chicken place and the other is a lovely, sit-down restaurant, with amazing ceviche, by the way, and roasted corn kernels with lovely creamy sauce. Just depends on whether you're in a hurry for good food or can take your time in a nice setting.

                        2. OK, I confess, my enthusiasm for Peruvian Pollo has, none-too-coincidentally, risen in the last week. I was just in DC and had Pollo Rico twice in three days. And I supplied dinner for a party of 20 people with nothing but Pollo. There were a lot of fat and happy people that night. I don't know how they do that, make it the crack of chicken. Or cracken. Anyway, next time I'm in Boston, it's on.

                          1. Since the Allston location of El Chalan closed a while back, we've discovered that you can make an entirely credible version of the all-important aji sauce with two teaspoons of aji paste (we found it at Mayfair), 1/3 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon olive oil, the juice of one lime and a pinch of salt. Went beautifully with the maduros I made to go with some country-style pork ribs Sunday evening.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                              Mayfair has everything you need to make the actual Peruvian chicken too. I've done it at home a few times (minus the rotisserie) and it's great.

                            2. OK, I hit Machu Picchu last night. I had a quick burger at Trina's Starlite (my first time there). The burger, by the way, was pretty good (savory and well-seasoned, good architecture, medium-rare thin/flat patty, fresh LTO, only downside being the patty was a little dense but whatever, I enjoyed it and it was only 4 bucks). But I digress. After the burger and a few High Lifes, I drove through the tornado weather to MPCC.

                              The only other people there were this one couple. It was clean but felt a little lonely in there with just one waiter and the lights off in the back hallway and bar areas. At this late hour, didn't get the feeling the rotisserie was actually running. I ordered a half chicken with fries.

                              Seasoning on the skin was not as deep and spicy as at El Chalan, but the meat was juicier and more plump. In other words, not as tasty, and not nearly as much of that smoky char flavor I love so much, but it had better texture. It did come out warm -- I wonder what technique they use to warm up the chicken if it didn't come directly off the rotisserie. Fries were surprisingly good, better than at El Chalan. Aji sauce was thin and runny but maybe this is a good thing because when you dip the chicken into it, you don't necessarily want it to be coated with too much of it. The salad was basically shredded lettuce, a slice of tomato, and a few wisps of radish. It tasted like the ingredients that were in it.

                              In the end, I just wanted more of that charcoal flavor. I wanted it to feel more wild, closer to the "street." Maybe it's the smell of the smoke in the air at other places where the rotisserie is actively running that creates this sensation. On that same note, I think it's probably better to come here at a busier hour like lunchtime on Saturday when the chicken is coming just finished off the spit instead of being carefully reheated. Basically, my verdict so far is that I like El Chalan better despite its drier meat because it was just tastier and more boldly seasoned. If I stick with just dark meat there, I'll be a happy camper. The hole-in-the-wall charm with sticky vinyl table tops and the refrigerator in the dining room with sweaty bottles of Inca Kola inside helps to add to the charm, too. MPCC, by comparison, is like the better-groomed but more boring older sibling... the Passat to El Chalan's GTI, or the oldest Hanson brother.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Mike5966

                                You say the fries were good? MPCC's fries have been a consistent punching bag on here - they are usually heavy and undercooked, requiring some additional baking at home. Would love to hear more about what you got...

                                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                  You know, on my April visit we all thought the fries were good and I know there are many complaints about them on this board so I just figured maybe I wasn't discriminating enough. I'm pretty sure they were just Sysco or similar but they were very competently fried, dark enough and perfectly hot. Not great but plenty good.

                                  1. re: GretchenS

                                    Hey, that's a good thing. Maybe they tweaked the knobs on the fry-o-later.

                                  2. re: Bob Dobalina

                                    The MPCC fries were crispy, fluffy on the inside, piping hot, the color and doneness of a good batch at McDonald's, and not greasy. Although not OMG spectacular, they were a solid rendition of the Sysco standard.

                                    1. re: Mike5966

                                      You know, sometimes I think the fries are just aiming to be tostones.

                                2. Just hit Pollo a La Brasa Beto's for lunch today, and here is the verdict...

                                  I showed up around 11:30, which according to the lady was the best time to arrive since the chickens all come off the rotisserie just prior to this time of day. The wife appears to be the owner with "Beto," who I saw in the back running the kitchen alone but with a smile. The dining room is in the ice cream and cake place next door called Peaches and Cream. I ordered a half chicken with fried yuca.

                                  Starting with the skin, it had those familiar spices but similar to Machu Picchu, it didn't quite have as much bite or charcoal smokiness as the one at El Chalan. It also was the least crispy of the three places I've tried, and meanwhile had an almost sweet, glazed character to it which I liked immensely in the very beginning but got just a bit cloying near the very end, and by a bit, I mean like an extremely tiny miniscule bit... overall the flavor was still good.

                                  In the meantime, the actual meat was the most juicy and moist of all three! It was hot and steaming in my face with all its moistness. The other two places had parts of the meat that were stringy and dry (though still flavorful), but Beto's meat is plump, juicy, and bursting with chicken vitality. It was heavenly.

                                  My conclusions based on this are the following:

                                  1. El Chalan has the best, most intense seasoning and charcoal flavor in the skin itself.
                                  2. El Chalan also has the crispiest skin but the driest meat.
                                  3. Beto's has the least crispy skin but the juiciest meat.
                                  4. Machu Picchu is in the middle with respect to juiciness and skin flavor/crispiness.

                                  It seems the trade-off is on a spectrum, which makes sense. The hotter and longer you cook it, the crispier the skin will get but then you run the risk of drying out the flesh, and vice versa. There is no holy grail, but that's OK, at least for me because I still liked all three places. If you have to choose just one, though, it depends on what your priorities are. I, for one, prize the skin and seasoning the most, because this is the sine qua non of pollo a la brasa as a thing unto itself... And yet if the meat is like cardboard, there is no point of eating chicken to begin with.

                                  To get the best of both worlds, I recommend going to El Chalan and sticking to dark meat only, and to go only during peak hours when the birds are coming right off the spit, usually lunchtime. It's unfortunate that these places aren't busy enough to have the spit running all day long so that you could go anytime and have the hottest, freshest chicken. But all these places are good, and even if you are nitpicking for the Chow-y fun of it like I am, you will still enjoy it if you like the dish to begin with, as all are solid renditions, just with different priorities.

                                  ENJOY!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Mike5966

                                    hey mike, i just came across your june 8 post today; i missed it back in june. wow, what a great and thorough CH report. i haven't been to machu picchu in awhile, and i think el chalan will see us soon now that i have learned from you that we can get just the dark quarters! thnx again!