Don Pollo

Chicken, South American
$$$$ ($14 and under)
Don Pollo photo
(Scott Suchman)
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Editorial Review

Tom Sietsema wrote about Don Pollo in December 2008 as part of a longer story about cheap eats.

When restaurateur Francis Namin decided to open a couple more chicken joints, he knew he could count on his longtime employees for help. Who better to give him advice on the subject and its sides than a group of Peruvians, Costa Ricans and Argentines?

The menu at the 3-month-old Don Pollo in Bethesda is the result of the workers' consensus, and all I can say is, great team work. Don Pollo's signature gets its savor from an initial wash in lemon juice, a soak in beer and vinegar and a (dry) rub of cumin, oregano and other seasonings. The chicken, available in three sizes, exits its charcoal fire golden, sticky to the touch and as moist as you could wish.

My standing order is half a chicken for $7.99, a deal that includes warm corn tortillas, a couple of dips and a choice of two sides. The creamy coleslaw and earthy black beans and rice are standouts, but I'm also fond of the finger-length fried yucca, stuffed in a wax paper bag to keep it crisp for carryout orders.

With that chicken comes a splash of style. If the cashier appears a little sullen, the setting makes up for him. Walls of lemon yellow, lime green and burnt orange -- and a dancing jalapeno in the middle of it all -- brighten the dreariest of days, and the soundtrack puts you in mind of someplace sunny, too. News flash for residents of Prince George's County: Namin, who opened the original Don Pollo four years ago in Rockville, recently opened a third place, at 2065 University Blvd. in Hyattsville.

(Dec. 7, 2008)