Tag Archives: Peri peri

Fogo’s Peri Peri: Portuguese Chicken in Chicagoland

portugalMozambiqueSouth Africa FlagWhen we heard that there was a Peri Peri chicken place in Skokie we were pleasantly surprised. Peri Peri is a Portuguese/African dish of spicy peri-peri pepper marinated chicken, popularized in the US and throughout the world by the South African Nando’s chain. We had tried Peri Peri chicken before, but only at Nando’s, which coincidentally now has 2 locations open in Chicago (when Fogo opened there were no Nando’s in the area).

PeriPeri Fogo’s seemed to be set up in a similar mold to Nando’s. Like Nando’s you can order the type of chicken pieces you want (breast, thigh, etc.), and then select the sauce, ranging from a mild lemon to super spicy. Fogo’s boasts that all of their chicken is marinated for 24 hours. We thought the chicken was slightly more reasonably priced than Nando’s, and you can get a quarter chicken for less than $5. Other options include chicken wings and chicken strips, and a surprisingly large vegetarian section with many wraps and sandwiches filled with paneer (an Indian curd cheese). There were also some unusual sides, like yucca fries and corn on the cob. Customarily L ordered a quarter chicken with medium heat, and M ordered spicy (is there any other way?)PeriPeriYuca

There had been some previous complaints about slow service, but we thought it took only a little longer than a typical counter service place for the chicken to be grilled-to-order. This chicken was flavorful and well-spiced, and we appreciated the nice char from the grill. M was also happy that the spicy was actually pretty spicy! The sides were not as successful, so we suggest getting your fill of the finger-licking good chicken. We are happy to have another option for Portuguese chicken in the Chicagoland area. Nando’s fans will be happy to know that Fogo’s is comparable to Nando’s (one can’t help but compare), but with more reasonable prices and more vegetarian options.

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Nando’s is coming to Chicago!

Nando's Peri Peri Sign

We are so excited – one of our favorite restaurant chains, the Peri-Peri chicken joint Nando’s is coming to Chicago! We have previously visited Nando’s locations in Washington D.C. and London and really enjoyed the food. The closer-to-home West Loop location opens May 20th. We will be first in line for some Pasteis de Nata!


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Portugal / South Africa / Mozambique: Nando’s Peri-Peri

Nando’s Peri-Peri
819 7th St NW
Washington, DC 20001

Nando’s is a South African restaurant chain with locations throughout DC and Maryland, serving up a signature Portuguese/Mozambican speciality: peri-peri (pronounced “piri-piri”) chicken. Peri-peri is the local name for an African Bird’s Eye Chili, grown throughout sub-Saharan Africa. How the pepper came to Portugal is a mystery, but eventually Portuguese and Mozambican (Mozambique being a former Portuguese colony) culinary exchanges gave rise to a peri-peri sauce made from the pepper. The sauce is a staple on southern African and Portuguese tables, and is applied liberally to chicken breast grilled over a spit: peri-peri chicken. Nando’s was founded by members of South Africa’s Portuguese-Mozambican community, and has since expanded to 30 restaurants on 5 continents. Unfortunately, they have only recently made inroads in the USA, and only in the DC metro area. That is unfortunate, Nando’s definitely hits the spot for your stateside peri-peri craving and is well worth a visit.

On a recent trip to DC, M visited Nando’s Chinatown location (hence the Chinese characters on the sign) – probably their most popular location in the city. Nando’s logo is a representation of the Rooster of Barcelos, the Portuguese national symbol, and appropriate here because the rooster’s large eye makes one think of the Bird’s Eye Chili.

Nando’s does an excellent job of serving up presumably fast food in an upscale setting. Wood paneling and good lighting make for a sophisticated interior, and a central plexiglas wall – actually filled with dried peppers – is a nice touch. The walls are decorated with original works from South African artists, part of Nando’s ever-expanding art collection (now 4,000 pieces) which also offers scholarships to young artists back in Africa. The uniqueness of the food and their commitment to the arts really made me want to like this place, so it is lucky the food delivered.

For the relatively upscale vibe, the ordering is simple. You can choose from many entrees, but if we are being honest (and we always are) there is no point in getting anything besides the chicken: pick a half or whole breast, choose your spiciness level, and choose between 0 and 3 side dishes. I selected the extra spicy chicken (of course), with sides of Portuguese rice and a mayo-heavy coleslaw, to reduce the heat from the chicken if need be. After ordering they give you a cute table marker and you proceed to your spot, waiting for the food to be delivered to you.

The chicken was – and I cannot overstate this – perfect. Grilled to perfection with just the right amount of marinade, Nando’s then lathered on the peri-peri to add the extra heat I requested. But the flavors come through as well: peri-peri is a complex sauce, loaded with spices and contrasting flavors, and Nando’s variety brought out all the high notes from the pepper as well as the other ingredients. I thought these paired nicely with the rice, which was satisfying though underwhelming. I probably would not get the coleslaw again: it was very good as far as coleslaw goes, but the menu was correct in suggesting it would cut off the heat, which it did almost too well. Next time, I’d order something not as heavy as a side, reserving the slaw for less spice-inclined diners. Overall, for under $15, this was a steal for a weekday lunch. I hope Nando’s is able to expand and open up more locations in the USA, because they would do well given their business model. But if they stray from their signature sauce and effective grilling as a result of the expansion there will be major issues. I’m just thrilled to see good, fast, transnational cuisine like this making inroads in the USA – for now, if you are in the DC area, definitely stop by for a great lunch!


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