I knew a Pollo Campero franchise had opened near my childhood home in Falls Church, Virginia the minute I smelled that delectable citrus and oregano-infused fried chicken from nearly a quarter-mile away. Half of my neighborhood showed up there the next day, and security guards were dispatched to help with crowd control.
Pollo Campero, which translates as “country chicken,” is the world’s largest Latin chicken chain and boasts a dedicated cult following. When it first opened in Guatemala in the 1970s, its Peruvian-style fried and grilled chicken spread like wildfire across Latin America and beyond.
Before Pollo Campero went stateside, people would carry as much chicken as TSA-possible on planes from Central American to the US. El Salvador’s Aeropuerto Internacional Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero even has a Pollo Campero just so fans can carry on as much as they can hold on board. Fan Joey Alzamora’s family would send him Pollo Campero by way of Encomiendas, Guatemala. They would buy a box of chicken, seal it up real tight, freeze it and send it all the same day. He says he was “born with Pollo Campero in my vocabulary.”
You may be thinking, “Great, another fried chicken chain to fuel America’s obsession.’’ But once you try Pollo Campero, it’s easy to understand why people go crazy over a two-piece combo box with yuca fries, tortillas, beans, and platanitos.
First of all, it is Action Bronson delicious. The chicken skin is perfectly spiced and crispy. If Pollo Campero sold buckets of fried chicken skin alone, there would be a market for it. But also, the meat is juicy, juicy, juicy. The Campero Beans, which are slow-cooked with chorizo, jalapeños, tomatoes, onion, and cilantro, are fuego. I like to dip my yuca fries in them.