What it's like to eat at Pollo Tropical, the Caribbean chicken chain I love so much that the workers know my name

What it's like to eat at Pollo Tropical, the Caribbean chicken chain I love so much that the workers know my name

 

This is the view that will greet you at the counter. Chelsea Greenwood

If you can't squeeze a tropical getaway into your schedule this winter, then check out fast food restaurant Pollo Tropical, which is my go-to lunch spot multiple times a week. Founded by two Miami brothers in 1988, the chain is most prevalent in Florida but also has locations in Georgia, Puerto Rico, Central America, and South America.

The chain has gone through some growing pains, announcing in April 2017 that it would close 30 restaurants and relaunch its brand later in the year, according to Dallas Business Journal.

But it remains a popular lunch spot in South Florida thanks to its juicy chicken and Carribbean flavors. Keep scrolling to see what it's like to dine at Pollo Tropical.

Original Post

As anyone who has taken Spanish 101 can tell by its name, Pollo Tropical is all about the chicken. They start with fresh, never-frozen, bone-in chicken; marinate it in fruit juices and spices for 24 hours, and then flame-grill it. It's moist, flavorful, and tastes healthy.

It's known for its chicken.
Pollo Tropical

Throughout the menu, bold rubs and marinades made with island spices, mixed herbs, and fresh citrus enhance fresh proteins and veggies.

One of the most popular menu items — and my personal favorite — is the TropiChop (which is about $5 for a small and $7 for a regular).

This is my order.
Chelsea Greenwood

For this item, you build your own bowl, just like at Chipotle, by mixing and matching your choice of rice (yellow, brown, or white), protein (chicken, mojo roast pork, and sometimes beef or shrimp) and veggies (black beans, tomatoes, corn, sauteed peppers, and sauteed onions).

Then comes the fun part: Pollo Tropical offers eight sauces to amp up the flavor.

The selection of sauces.
Chelsea Greenwood

Top off your TropiChop with curry mustard, BBQ, guava BBQ, pineapple rum, spicy poyo-poyo, fresh salsa, hot sauce, or — the undisputed fan favorite — cilantro garlic. This sauce makes anything and everything taste better.

For those who just want some greens and protein, the restaurant also serves fresh salads like the mango salad, with mango, grilled chicken, candied walnuts, red onions, shredded carrots, tomatoes, shredded cheese, romaine hearts, and homemade guava vinaigrette.

They have salads too, of course.
Pollo Tropical

When it comes to drinks, they do have typical soft drinks, but they also have some house specialties.

This is my personal favorite.
Chelsea Greenwood

My favorite is the freshly brewed mango iced tea (which doesn't need any sweetener in my opinion), but Pollo Tropical also offers Cuban sodas Jupiña (pineapple flavored) and Materva, made with yerba mate. It's sweet and reminiscent of cream soda or ginger ale.

Authentic Caribbean side dishes and desserts round out the meal nicely. I'm partial to the sweet plantains, which have a deliciously crispy, caramelized exterior, and the fried yuca, which is kind of like a tropical twist on French fries. Paired with the cilantro garlic sauce, they are completely addictive.

Don't you just want to reach through the screen and eat one?
Chelsea Greenwood

Although Pollo Tropical just added Key lime pie and cheesecake to its menu, I recommend heading straight for authentic Latin choices, like the velvety-smooth flan (a light custard) or quatro leches.

Here is the yummy tres leches.
Pollo Tropical

You may have heard of tres leches (a milk cake), but Pollo Tropical one-ups the competition with this decadent version, made of freshly baked pound cake soaked in light cream and topped with whipped cream and dulce de leche.

At midday on any given weekday in South Florida, you'll find scads of hungry patrons queuing up at Pollo Tropical to purchase lunch. I’m often among them — so much so that the drive-thru workers at my local Pollo know me by name. That might sound a little sad — but it pays dividends in extra cilantro garlic sauce. The next time you're in town, I'd recommend you take a pit stop.

Now, I'll go enjoy my lunch.
Chelsea Greenwood

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