Forget deep-fried, mayonnaise battered nuggets from your average chicken joint — chain restaurant Nando’s brings chicken dinner to whole new heights. Nando’s was founded in 1987 in South Africa before spreading globally, gaining particular popularity in England and Australia. In 2008 Nando’s finally made the leap across the pond, opening two locations here in D.C. — one on 18th Street, just blocks from Dupont Circle, and another in Chinatown. Either one is a close jaunt from campus and short enough to quickly satisfy any cravings on days that aren’t chicken finger Thursdays.
Inspired by Afro-Portuguese flavors and family-style dining, the menu at Nando’s offers diners choices that include flame-grilled chicken served up with the restaurant’s special Peri-Peri seasoning blends, which range in intensity from plain to extra hot, depending on how adventurous you are.
According to Nando’s website, Portuguese travelers discovered Peri-Peri, the pet name for African Birds Eye Chili, while exploring South Africa during the 1500s. Nando’s claims Peri-Peri “contains no preservatives, no colourants or artificial flavours … helps reduce cholesterol … is rich in vitamins A and C [and is] reputed be an aphrodisiac.” When a chain restaurant promises all-natural food, it’s probably a tall tale, but regardless of the veracity of Nando’s claims, you’ll fall head over heels for the taste of their food.
Big groups can order whole, half and quarter chickens to share, or you can place individual orders for dishes such as chicken strips in wraps, pitas or on Portuguese rolls. Sides include chips (or as we know them here in the U.S., french fries), garlic bread, red skin mashed potatoes and, in a nod to the great English tradition of fish and chips, Macho Peas green pea mash. Since the chicken is grilled instead of fried, you can count on it being healthier than your average chicken dinner at an American chain. But even better, for once, diners don’t have to compromise taste for calories. A personal recommendation is the extra hot chicken breast wrap, which is served with chili jam, lettuce and yogurt sauce.
Beside being delicious, Nando’s stateside has another added perk: Prices are exactly the same in dollars as they would be in British pounds. Yes, that means you’re actually getting a bargain, since six dollars is worth considerably less than six pounds. D.C. Nando’s locations are also boasting happy hour $7.95 pitchers of sangria from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. as a perfect complement to a weekday chicken dinner.
Nando’s offers high-standard, unique global cuisine at an affordable price. Check it out the next time you crave good chicken. As a devoted Peri-Peri enthusiast, I can promise you won’t be disappointed.