When the first US location of Pollo Campero opened in LA, it supposedly did $1 million in sales in the first 47 days. I had a chef buddy who went to LA for an eating trip and he waited in line for an hour for this Guatemalan chicken. He's a fan.
So when I heard they were opening in good ol' St. Paul, I was excited to give it a shot. First of all, this is fast food chicken, make no mistake. It is an international chain the feeds 85 million people in 12 countries around the world. Funny enough, the clean and polished little restaurant on Robert Street in West St. Paul is situated right next to a KFC. But PC is known for marinating and hand-breading its chicken, and using a slow pressure-cooking process with no trans-fats.
When I walked in, the place was hopping. If it matters to you that I was the only non-Latino in the joint, I was. The menu board was big and easy to read, and the counter help was friendly and efficient. You can get your chicken grilled or fried, of course I got both, and there were a lot of delicious sounding sides. Here's the verdict:
Fried: The chicken was super crispy, and not at all greasy. The chicken was plump and juicy and the batter had a nice subtle spice to it. It actually felt light in some way, where other battered birds feel entombed. The chicken strips were probably the best I've ever stolen from my kid.
Grilled: Pow, that chicken was caked with spices, and although it was a bit dry in parts, the squeeze of lime and zippiness made me eat the whole half-bird. It was oregano-citrus-salty good.
Sides: OK, ready? Yuca fries as good as Brasa. There I said it. They were crispy and not greasy, and stupidly fluffy in the middle. And the dipping sauce was too yummy to ignore.
Campero beans were a steal, under $2 for a big cup jammed with beans, chorizo, bacon, tomatoes, and cilantro. The sweet plantains were fat and dense, I actually saved them for dessert.
Bummer that I missed the milky cinnamon horchata, next time.
Prices are decent, you can get a whole grilled chicken with two family sized sides for $19, and a 16-piece fried chicken meal with four sides will run you $32. I can't honestly say that I'd wait an hour in line for the chicken, but I have already made route plans in my head to get there before my radio show on Saturday. And if I was going to have fried chicken for the Sunday game, I might make an early trip. If they open a location closer to me, it could be a habit.