By Jim Ayres
Opened as a fried chicken outlet in Guatemala in 1971, Pollo Campero offers excellent, well-priced favorites from all over Latin America — right here in Houston. Ten locations, in fact!
And from the day I first walked into the one on Washington Avenue near Shepherd, I was hooked.
According to the Pollo Campero website, “Campero means flavor. It’s about combining generations of family recipes into the perfect, savory bite. And it’s about the people. The hardworking Campero family brings the food to life. Food that is lovingly made from scratch, with a signature flavor that brings everyone together.”
El Pollo here is indeed irresistible. Whether fried or grilled, the lush, moist pieces take to Pollo Campero’s citrus Peruvian spice blend like a moth to a flame. This is one case where I’d even say the grilled is slightly better than fried. It’s juicier, believe it or not.
But as I type this, I’m chowing down on their fried option. No slouch in the flavor department, the Campero traditional herbs, and spices on these drumsticks and thighs beat salty, MSG-laced KFC by many miles.
Over the years, Pollo Campero in the U.S. has toyed with non-chicken offerings. I have fond memories of an Argentinean Steak Taco, a Cubana Pork Empanada, and a Veggie Jalapeno Taco. But — I think wisely — today they’re sticking to what they do best and finding great new ways with chicken.
The empanadas saw great success. They’re handmade daily (the freshness shines) and loaded with that awesome chicken. And then came the Camperitos. These nuggets aren’t the same as the slimy stuff thrown into a fryer you’ll get at McDonald’s. No, the Camperitos are breaded in the same flavor as the fried chicken and cooked fresh to order. One hundred percent white meat, natch.
There’s a Chicken Breast Salad if you must. And there’s a new sandwich on offer. Choice of fried or grilled, laid on top of three sweet pickles and served with on soft buttered brioche bun. I know that doesn’t sound too extreme, but it’s a great meal behind the wheel!
Can we talk about side dishes? Pollo Campero has some of the best of any kind of restaurant I can think of. Sure, you can get fries and coleslaw, but what about slow-cooked Campero beans with chorizo, onions, garlic, tomato, cilantro, and jalapenos? Or Yuca (cassava root) Fries? How about a fresh and crisp Corn Salad?
Or Plantains, the tropical banana-like fruit so sweet and decadent they belong on the dessert menu (where you’ll also find a fine flan and a so-so chocolate chip cookie).
Did I mention the low prices at Pollo Campero? You can get a fine meal for less than 10 bucks a person. Of course, you’ll want to shell out a couple more and try their fruit beverages—guava, mango, or horchata (a rarity in Houston—Hugo’s doesn’t even have it).
I’ve been back to Pollo Campero many times and will be back many more. I think you should try it, too!
4701 Washington Avenue
Houston, TX 77007