Category Archives: Peruvian Chicken

Random Stuff

How’s that for headline excitement?

  • Washingtonian’s review of Peruvian chicken — Wheaton’s El Pollo Kiki Riki (2533 Ennalls) was the winner — is finally online.
  • Charm Thai is coming soon to Silver Spring, but the Gazette notes that “Wheaton is more well-known for its Thai cuisine with institutions like Ruan Thai and Nava Thai.” True!
  • Wheaton also has the also-good Dusit Thai, which Patch recently reviewed (albeit with very little detail).
  • Sietsema wrote about Shake Shack (now open in Dupont Circle) this week in the WaPo. I’m basically with him: very good burgers, meh fries, okay pricing, and worth eating but not worth waiting in long lines.  Eventually the novelty will wear off (won’t it?) and the wait times will disappear.
  • If you’re more McDonalds than Shack, perhaps you would enjoy some wine with your McFood?

Peruvian Eatin’ in Wheaton Part 2: El Pulgarcito de Callao

The Chicken Place might be enough Peru comida for mere mortals in a single weekend, but not for us: we went for back-to-back weekend Peruvian lunches, switching on Sunday to El Pulgarcito de Callao (11333 Elkin), which essentially means “A little piece of Callao” (Callao being Peru’s largest port city). Pulga means flea — I once lived just off Avenida de las Pulgas in the Bay Area, so I am totally down with the little buggers. We saw no fleas on Sunday.

EPDC is more of a dive than The Chicken Place: mostly bare, bright yellow walls, formica tables, only about 1/4 the square footage, and it was not crowded. Television showing Latino music videos, volume was loud — which worked out okay, because it kept the five-year-old entertained while the adults chatted through lunch.

We brought a genuine Peruvian with us this time, and he thought the food was mediocre. EPDC includes menu items from Salvador and Mexico, trying to cater to a broader local population. Oddly, the pupusas (Salvadoran) were the best thing going, crisp outside but light and fluffy, good flavor, oozing cheese; quality was just about as good as Antipuqueño (reviewed here). A happy start, but the ceviche was only so-so, although I liked it better than our Peruvian did. Lomo saltado was fine. Tacu tacu con pescado — fried fish on an enormous bed of red beans and rice, far more than I could eat — was okay, a little bland, though the accompanying salad was good. Who knew the Peruvians were so good at salads?  On the other hand, “tacu tacu” is a lot of fun to say.

Also fun to say: salchiapapas!  A delicious portmanteau of fried hot dog slices mixed with french fries, proving once again that two fried things taste better than one.  The boy seemed to like them, anyway. I was also introduced to chicha morada, a non-carbonated, non-alcoholic, preservative-free beverage made of purple corn. Hard to describe the taste. Slightly corny Kool-Aid? Not something I would drink a lot, but fun to try.

I had to try it, because EPDC was out of Diet Coke, and they don’t do pisco sours.  Between the drinks and the equivalent pricing and the difference in quality, The Chicken Place was the clear winner. But after lunch we crossed the street to the Latino Mercado, where we were informed by the proprietor that nobody goes to EPDC for the food, but only for drinking (beer I guess, since they have no liquor) — he said the best Peruvian food around is a few storefronts down at Cabanita (11305 Elkin). We peered in the windows on our way home and Cabanita does look quaint inside — more like true Peru, said the Peruvian — although it looks like almost an empty, deserted storefront if you just glance at it quickly.  So many Wheaton dives, so little time.  Cabanita is on the list for future visits, as is a return to The Chicken Place. And I think that is enough Peru for a while.

Peruvian Eatin’ in Wheaton Part 1: The Chicken Place

Most Peruvian restaurants in greater Silver Spring are of the whole-roasted-chicken variety, e.g. El Pollo Rico (2517 University) — Just Up The Pike recently reviewed several of them.  More full-menu Peruvian spots are sprinkled around MoCo, maybe most notably La Flor de la Canela in Gaithersburg (117 North Frederick Road), which remains our favorite Peruvian food so far.

Turns out Wheaton has a higher Peru quotient than I realized: within a couple of blocks, we have El Pulgarcito de Callao (plus at least one more, Mi Peru, over at the Viers Mill-University junction). This weekend we hit two of them for back-to-back lunches, although it turns out the one we didn’t go to might be the best of all (hard to say, since we didn’t go there!) — but more about that in episode two.

We started on Saturday at The Chicken Place (2418 University), tucked into the West end of the New Kam Fong-Dusit Thai-Irene’s Pupusas strip mall. Pretty audacious to name yourself The Chicken Place, as though there were no others! Despite their having been open for at least 17 years — maybe more, depending how out of date their business cards are — I had never paid much attention to their bright yellow sign and wood-roofed patio fronting onto University Avenue, but a commenter here awhile back asked for a report, wondering (partly but maybe not wholly in jest) if perhaps they might be “a front” for something more nefarious than mere Peruvian delicacies.

We liked the ambience: tots of wood inside — tables, chairs, wall art — and a red tile floor. Two televisions showing soccer; a light touch with the background music, probably most unobtrusive of any of Wheaton’s Latino establishments I’ve visited. We were in a front window booth and could barely hear the traffic on University. Service was friendly and attentive and accurate and quick and fully bilingual, no complaints about any of it.

I don’t know if this is typical, but the appetizers both came with salads (very good, with lots of red onion and tangy, vinegar-lime dressing) and the entree was veggie-free. We started with the chicharron de puero (crispy pork), which was a bit dry outside but juicy inside at first, less so after it had been sitting on the plate for 10-15 minutes, and which came with tasty yucca fries (more fibrous than potato fries but otherwise pretty similar), and the papa rellena, basically ground beef and boiled egg wrapped in mashed potatoes and deep-fried. Yes, yes yes.

The appetizers were large portions (plus the unexpected salads) so even a shared entree was more than we could finish (woohoo leftovers): aji de gallina, shredded chicken in a creamy yellow sauce with steamed rice, was subtle, almost bland, but Mrs. Me liked the rich cheesy milkiness of the sauce. Just needed a little more salt, or cumin, or something.

And Diet Coke.

Overall, a solid meal, we will return for sure at some point. Pretty sure they’re not a front. By they way, The Chicken Place does have the ubiquitous Peruvian rotisserie chicken, among many other menu options, but not sure they’re the best place for that kind of thing. They were a Washingtonian Magazine “Best Bargain Restaurants” pick several times in the early to mid 1990s, but have maybe fallen off the radar a bit since then. But how do they compare to Wheaton’s other offerings? Coming in Part 2: We visit El Pulgarcito de Callao with a Peruvian friend in tow, and get a tip on Cabanita.

TC Goes to Antipuqueño

Libertarian economist and ethnic food maven (and big Nava fan — it’s currently in his top five) Tyler Cowen posted earlier this week about his visit to Antipuqueño (2504 Ennals), which I don’t think I even knew existed. Sounds like a classic Wheaton dive, too bad I missed it on my last pupusa tour.  Next time. I know there’s been a lot of non-Wheaton Tex-Mex lately, need to dive back into Wheaton’s diverse Latino eateries. I visited Irene’s III, Kantutas, Sergio’s, and El Pollo Rico in 2009.  Need to get back to Matamoros and El Chorro, haven’t been to either for several years. Just Up the Pike is, meanwhile, conducting a Peruvian chicken poll. Vote early and vote often.

Wilds of Virginia

We visited my cousin and her adorable two-year-old son this morning across the border, and there was a small amount of eating, starting with a decent chocolate croissant at Whole Foods. However, one of the employees, when asked about the availability of fake sugar for the (not good) coffee, went off on a diatribe about how WF “isn’t Starburcks” and “is trying to teach you something” and “that stuff [fake sugar] causes cancer”.  A simple “sorry, we don’t have that” would have been a lot more appropriate. Just another reason to hate Whole Foods; I only go about once a year on average and based on today will try to cut back a bit.

Later, for lunch after picking up wine at Arrowine, we ate chicken at Crisp and Juicy (Lee Highway location). They should call it Savory and Juicy; we liked the food a lot, but the skin was no longer crisp, or crispy. Is the “y” redundant? Needs its own blog post someday. Anyway, Whatever & Juicy is very similar to Wheaton’s own El Pollo Rico, although the C&J fries are a bit better and they offered a choice of mild or spicy fry sauce; of course I took spicy and it was very good. Maybe EPR offers the choice too, but they’ve never asked me.  C&J also branches out into asada and sausage sandwiches, including allegedly “Hot [Spicy] Argentine Sausage”: based on our trip earlier this summer, there’s no such thing, an Argentine would sooner clean up after his dog on the sidewalk than eat something spicy.  Next time I hit C&J I may have to try it, just to see.