Thursday, June 17, 2010

the great peruvian taste test: my favorites

The JUTP Facebook page isn't maintained as well as it should be (though I encourage y'all to "like" us!), so it took me two weeks to notice this plea from Sardi's Pollo a la Brasa to "TRY OUR CHICKENNN."

Oh, Sardi's. If only I hadn't given away all my big JUTP buttons (from the ill-fated JUTP store) to small children in Briggs Chaney. Then, I could have worn them when I came to your restaurant - one on each side - and proudly told the cashier, "I HAVE TRIED YOUR CHICKENNN, AND IT IS SO GOODDD."

I basically abandoned our Great Peruvian Taste Test two months ago, stopping short of reviewing the #1 reader-selected favorite pollo a la brasa, El Pollo Rico.

There are a few reasons why this happened. For one, you can't get plantanos at El Pollo Rico, which are my favorite Peruvian chicken side dish. Second, I started dating a vegetarian, one who lives in Virginia and can cook really well, eliminating most opportunities I'd have had to eat heavily-flavored meat.

But the real reason is that we've all already eaten at El Pollo Rico, and those who are really into pollo a la brasa have long since dismissed it for the next great chicken. I know I have. My favorite Peruvian places never made the top five, but I figured you'd rather hear about them than anything else.

So let's bring an end to the Great Peruvian Taste Test:

Sardi's Pollo a la Brasa
Multiple locations; we tried the one at 10433 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville.

I first learned about Sardi's in college, when a friend ordered food and I was stunned to find the delivery man brought not pizza or Chinese but delicious rotisserie chicken. Located on Route 1 in a former Pizza Hut, Sardi's is particularly convenient to those living Up The Pike who don't feel like going into Downtown Anywhere. Unlike many of its hole-in-the-wall counterparts, Sardi's has a nice, big, clean dining room. But don't let the non-Wheaton location and cleanliness fool you: This shit is good.

Meat and Flavor. Juicy, strong chicken. The meat falls right off the bone. The skin is nice as well, for those of you who do that. Right up there with Inka's in terms of taste.

Sides. A huge variety of sides - and they're generous with them, too. The plantanos don't cost extra and are always golden and just a little crispy. Meanwhile, the white rice is soft and fluffy. Together, they support the chicken well.

Sauces. The standard yellow sauce and green sauce. But you won't really need either of them.

Chicken, Carbon in Rockville
Carbón Peruvian Chicken & Grill (above)
100 Gibbs Street, Rockville

You might worry that a pollo a la brasa joint in Rockville Town Square might dilute the quality of its food to please diners who'd otherwise take their business next door to Five Guys or Jerry's Subs and Pizza. But Carbón's doesn't compromise, mixing trendy décor - a menu with prices in whole dollars, posters from an obscure Andean potato ad campaign on the walls - with solid food.

Meat and Flavor. While not as cuminy as other places, the birds are far more consistent in quality here. Soft, juicy, and meaty. I'm convinced their chickens are bigger.

Sides. Plantains cost extra, unfortunately, but no complaints about the taste. I always run out of rice before I finish, though.

Sauces. There's the traditional green and yellow sauces, along with another greenish-yellow sauce that I'm told is "extra mild." (This is Rockville, after all.) It's not bad, however.

Chicken on the Run
4933 Saint Elmo Avenue, Bethesda

This is the place that started it all for me four summers ago while doing a miserable internship a block away. If it weren't for Chicken on the Run, I would've quit much sooner. It's a hole-in-the-wall - you might be able to get ten people in here sitting down - but perhaps the only dining establishment (save for mom-and-pop M&N's Pizza) worth your money in downtown Bethesda.

Meat and Flavor. Friend of JUTP Chip Py always jokes that the best Peruvian places are the ones where the chickens have years of old grease and dirt baked into them. It's probably applicable here. This pollo is dark and sumptuous - certainly not for beginners.

Sides. Plantains aren't extra, and they're good. They have a nice lunch special here that's definitely worth taking advantage of.

Sauces. Yellow sauce and green sauce. Perhaps this as a judging category was not a good idea.

And there you have it: the best Peruvian chicken in suburban Maryland. I hope you enjoyed this journey as much as I have, particularly right around lunchtime. If you're smart, you haven't eaten yet - and, hopefully, you're close to one of the eateries on the map below. Happy eating!

View the great peruvian taste test in a larger map


hockeypunk said...

ah yes, closure! allow me to self-review king pollo (the new place on the corner of rt. 1 and 212 in beltsville. the chicken itself is darn tasty: very moist and not too salty. the yellow sauce (i don't know the word in spanish for it...salsa amarilla?) is ok but a bit more mayo in it than i'd care for. the sides are very generous in portion. the standard fries and slaw are...well, standard. i tried the red beans yesterday and they were quite good. just one thing: stay away from the mac & cheese. i don't know how you screw that up, but they did. all-in-all it's a good value and plenty tasty if you're in beltsville and don't want to wait in line at sardi's

FatJew69 said...

yo hockeypunk are you serious? You liked that whack ass King Pollo? I tried it and it sucked. I got 1/4 chicken 2 sides and the sides were awfull. Chicken was nasty, dry, not fresh. I'd rather stand in line at Sardi's, Chipolte, McDonalds before I eat that crap again.