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Serving since 1988, El Pollo Rico continues to please

El Pollo Rico continues to shine and live on a dream that has kept true for a consecutive 35 years.

If you live in Arlington, there’s a good chance you’ve had or at least heard about El Pollo Rico’s Peruvian chicken.

Regardless of your preference between other Peruvian chicken joints in the area, El Pollo Rico — at 932 N. Kenmore Street in Virginia Square — has built its reputation as being a restaurant with some pretty good chicken. Don’t believe me? Maybe hearing about visitors such as tennis goddess Serena Williams and late food icon Anthony Bourdain, who don’t just walk into any ol’ restaurant, will convince you otherwise.

Starting out in 1984, El Pollo Rico was born from Peru native Victor Solano and his dream idea of bringing a bit of home to the United States. The original location, for those who remember, was on the corner of Washington Boulevard, Fillmore Street and 10th Street N.

“We had to move because they put a building there that is now condominiums,” says current co-owner Ivan Solano.

When El Pollo Rico first opened it only offered coleslaw, fries and the mild and hot sauces. But let’s be honest, your chicken can be the best in the land, but if the sauce is not just as good, you’ll never have a path to the throne for best Peruvian chicken. For El Pollo Rico, however, the sauce is a strength.

“With our sauce, we take pride in making and have a secret recipe for it,” says Solano. “The people seem to love it.”

Fast forward to today and the legacy continues and has expanded, with Victor’s children now running 3 of the 4 Peruvian chicken locations — in Arlington, Woodbridge and Fairfax. And El Pollo Rico still has their original sides, of course, but now also has plantains, rice and beans to go with your order.

Solano highlights the importance of family and the connection to customers just as equally or even more so than the quality of chicken. Of course nothing stays around this long or keeps its popularity without doing something right with the food, but this devotion towards hospitality shows the core values held within the business and how it translates into the food.

“I know everyone keeps telling us that what separates us is the taste of the chicken, I want to hope that our hospitality does too,” Solano says.

Asking about the famous and notable people who come to visit from all over the world, he said the restaurant is more focused on its regular customers.

“Visits from celebrities are always a plus… but we have been very fortunate and blessed to have the customers that we have come in on a daily basis,” Solano said, adding that he is particularly proud to have built relationships with customers that have lasted over 30 years.

Discussing challenges faced through the years, it was no surprise that Covid was mentioned.

“Covid did hit us and made us pretty much rush into having delivery services… we had planned on doing so but this just made us pretty much jump into it right away,” Solano said.

At the height of the pandemic, there were cheers when news broke that El Pollo Rico was finally delivering. What followed was nothing but ringing phones and countless deliveries of chicken orders.

Whether dining in or ordering out, El Pollo Rico delivers a great value for the money.

A typical $10 plate that most customers order that comes with a quarter chicken (white or dark), 2 sides and 2 sauces. For those feeling a bit hungrier, upgrading from a quarter to half a chicken will cost you an extra $3-5, depending on what type of meat you want. Feeding the family and buying a whole chicken will cost around $20 and comes with 2 sides and 6 sauces.

For all the yuca lovers out there, the beloved potato-like vegetable can be found at the Woodbridge location (only), though Mr. Solano hopes to bring it to Arlington soon.

Desserts can also be found at the Arlington location with choices consisting of ice creams, alfajores, flan and tres leches to name a few.

Pro tip: get an Inca Cola with your meal, you’ll thank me later.

El Pollo Rico, an Arlington gem that reminds us of the American dream, is the epitome of how owning a business that has great hospitality and puts passion into its offerings can create bonds and longevity within its community.

  • Arlington location: 932 N. Kenmore Street, Arlington, VA 22201
  • Fairfax location: 10801 Fairfax Blvd, Fairfax, VA 22030
  • Wheaton location: 2517 University Blvd West, Silver Spring, MD 20902
  • Woodbridge location: 13470 Minnieville Road, Woodbridge, VA 22192

Nicholas Barahona is a freelance food writer who often posts his food reviews on Instagram.

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