La Granja de Oro

Latin American, South American
$$$$ ($14 and under)
La Granja de Oro photo
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Editorial Review

In Europe, it's no big deal to take home a juicy whole roasted bird in a neat paper package. In Washington, you have to look a little harder. Roast chicken is widely available -- Roy Rogers, for goodness sake, has started selling roast chicken by the piece -- and even the casually prepared ones are pretty good. But memorable is another thing. La Granja de Oro offers one such Peruvian-style broiled chicken at a storefront just a few doors north of 18th Street and Columbia Road NW.

The chicken here is grilled on spits that rotate so that the chicken juices baste the meat before falling into the giant charcoal fire. This ensures that the chicken -- including the breast meat -- is juicy, a sign that the chicken hasn't been kept too long over the heat. The skin was crispy for the most part, too.

This bird's outstanding trait was the seasoning, which included a strong dose of cumin. The lovely flavor of the aromatic spice infused the meat as well as its skin.

A whole chicken is $8.50; a half, $5.75; and a quarter, $3.75. You can order salad, doughy french fries or deep-fried yucca fingers -- a novelty but not one we particularly recommend -- on the side.

If you are overcome by hunger, there's plenty of room to attack your bird on the premises. There's even an upper deck. The plain but friendly surroundings are obviously popular with a crowd that ranges from youths in pairs to large families with young children in tow. Just about everyone is speaking Spanish.

Steaks and sandwiches also are available at reasonable prices. The most expensive thing on the menu, at $12.95, is a combination platter of barbecued chicken, chorizo sausage, a pork chop and small steak with fried potatoes.

-- Irwin Arieff and Deborah Baldwin