Anyone that lives in and around DC knows that around every corner lurks another Peruvian chicken joint. When we first moved down here, we tried a few versions of pollo a la brasa and were not all that impressed. Well we may be late to the party, but we are here now and love El Pollo Rico, which has locations in both Arlington and Wheaton, MD.
This counter service restaurant evokes the appearance of a warehouse. You enter a huge, barebones room with a drop ceiling and are most evenings greeted by a line to the door. Not to worry though; the line moves quickly, propelled by an efficient, almost assembly-line type of service. This restaurant serves only chicken, french fries, coleslaw and a random assortment of a few sodas, juices, and desserts. And what they serve, they do extraordinarily well.
When you get to the counter you will note several fire ovens spinning hundreds of chickens marinated in a secret spice blend. When you order your chicken, available in quarter, half, or whole, it is cleaved into pieces (sorry vegetarians) and served up piping hot.
This chicken is absolutely amazing and makes the perfect weeknight dinner. It is always moist beyond belief with immense flavor owing to the marinade that seeps into the meat and crisps up the skin. The fries are steakhouse style and crispy, as long as they don't mix with the coleslaw served along side, which is a mild counterpoint to the flavorful chicken. The glue that ties the whole meal together (and always my favorite) is the two dipping sauces. Every meal comes with a raging hot green sauce and a cooling yellow mayonnaise-like one. These are best eaten together, mixing to your preferred degree of spicy.
I also love what a melting pot of people this place attracts. You are likely to hear several different languages and see people of all ages, shapes, size, and colors happily devouring that juicy chicken.
B and I usually get ours to go and find this meal best enjoyed with a Spanish Rioja or other full-bodied wine that can stand up the chicken's spicy marinade. El Pollo Rico does not serve alcohol.
And maybe the most appealing part of this treat is the price. A whole chicken meal with two orders of french fries, coleslaw, and hot and mild dipping sauces is about $16 (cash only). You can't beat that!