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Must Haves: El Pollo Rico's World Famous Peruvian Chicken

Must Haves focuses on some of D.C.'s best dishes.

No restaurant epitomizes the concept of doing one thing well like El Pollo Rico.

You know El Pollo Rico. People in Guam know El Pollo Rico thanks to Tony Bourdain. And if you know El Pollo Rico, you know the chicken is fantastic. So fantastic, in fact, that you ignore the miserably bland fries and crappy cole slaw that every order comes with. You ignore the awkward location, the ugly interior and the owners' legal troubles.

You ignore all that because that chicken, coated in Peruvian spices (ground Inca and cocaine) and rotisseried round and round, is absolutely amazing.

DSCN5799 I've probably eaten hundreds of chickens in my lifetime. After all, it's the first white meat. Yet, I remember the first time I had El Pollo Rico. My buddy Columbo brought a few earth-friendly Styrofoam containers full of half chickens and fries over to my girlfriend's efficiency near Virginia Square. I still remember tearing into the chicken and being blown away by the flavor and thinking, "Wow, these fries really suck."

That's the thing, though, the fries don't matter. The fact that the restaurant is located between Wilson Boulevard and Fairfax Drive, and yet can't be seen from either doesn't matter. The fact that the rest of Clarendon has transformed into a dining destination for hipsters and the well-heeled doesn't seem to matter either.

That damn chicken made El Pollo Rico an Arlington institution a long time ago. And as long as they keep cranking out that magical Peruvian bird, it'll remain an institution, crappy French fries and all.

El Pollo Rico
932 Kenmore St.
Arlington, Va. 22201  



Totally love how you captured the essence of El Pollo Rico chicken. Never thought their food could photograph so well.


Have you tried the chicken at El Pollo Sabroso on Mt. Pleasant Road? It is moister and better flavored than El Pollo Rico's chicken, and the green and white sauces that accompany it are vastly superior.


JB above is correct. Much as I love the chicken at El Pollo Rico the food at El Pollo Sabroso in Mt Pleasant is better. That and Heller's Bakery are the only things I really miss about living in that neighborhood.


Sounds like I need to check out El Pollo Sabroso. Thanks for the tip.

Erin @ Hungry Times Two

Ground Inca and cocaine as spices - Or coca? No wonder it's so addictive!


Have you ever hit Super Chicken on Washington Rd in Falls Church? Beyond awesome.And i love the name Super Chicken. Can't beat that with a stick.


Well that may depend on how big the stick is.


I love love love this chicken, and first had it when visiting my son and family in NoVA. I call it El Pollo Loco because it was a crazy trip trying to find it, even with GPS then.
We'll have to try the other two locations sometime. Thanks for the reminder!


Still rate El Pollo Rico recipe in Arlington, VA as the preferred chicken recipe of choice. It's a must to enjoy freshly cooked and straight out of the oven. It's not just me because when the chicken runs out customers simply wait for the chicken to cook...

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Laura Morrell

We are still mourning the loss of Chicken Rico here in College Park!

--Probably one of the darkest days of my college experience.

Trip Ulvila

My friend has been talking about this place nonstop. I went to go to the college park location on a lunch break and lo and behold, it was closed. Such a shame. I have to make it to Arlington to try this stuff. Thanks for the review.

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Let me share to my the recipe for Peruvian Chicken, I hope you'll like it.

YIELD: 6 servings (serving size: 1 2/3 cups)
1/2 cup dry-roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onion
6 cups water
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
4 cups julienne-cut peeled sweet potato (about 1 pound)
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Place peanuts in a spice or coffee grinder; process until medium ground.
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in ground peanuts, water, and next 5 ingredients (water through sweet potato); bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in chicken; cook 10 minutes or until chicken is done. Stir in cilantro.
Note: To make ahead, prepare the soup as directed, but stop before adding the cilantro. Cover soup and refrigerate up to two days. Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature; place in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the soup until thoroughly heated; stir in cilantro.

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