In general, DC struggles with cheap and delicious ethnic food. It lacks the abundance of small, family-owned Indian, Vietnamese, Thai, and other restaurants that are found in many big cities in the northeast and across the country. While the most notable exception to the rule is certainly the district’s large selection of incredible Ethiopian restaurants, I’ve instead found myself turning for a quick, cheap bite to the District’s sometimes-overlooked Latin American food, which can be found all over the northern side of Northwest DC. And at El Pollo Sabroso’s Columbia Heights and Mt. Pleasant locations, they’re serving up a mean version of Peruvian chicken.
The menu at El Pollo Sabroso is varied: a number of soups, salads, sandwiches, and papusas sit alongside some odd items, like pasta with shrimp. I’ve had the chorizo here, and it was pretty tasty, with a decent amount of spice. But don’t let yourself be tricked by the large number of choices. The main attraction is the roast chicken.
The roast chicken comes in quarter, half, and whole chicken portions, with a side salad and your choice of plantains, rice, yucca, or french fries. The meat is juicy and flavorful, and, importantly to me, the skin is delicious (although it could be crispier in places). Where it’s cooked correctly, it’s crunchy and fantastic. The chicken comes with a spicy green sauce – made primarily with jalapenos – which adds both flavor and heat and transforms each bite from a simple piece of roast chicken to a mouth-tingling experience.
As far as sides go, I recommend the plantains or the yucca: the plantains are sweet and avoid being too greasy, while the yucca is like a heartier french fry, nice and crisp on the outside. Both are delicious dipped into more of that spicy green sauce. Avoid the rice, which seems like it could have come directly from a box found at their nearest Safeway.
As delicious as the food here is, you know what may be the best part about El Pollo Sabroso? The price. Dinner for two can easily be under $10, with the chance of leftovers depending on how hungry you are. Need dinner for four? A whole chicken with two salads and a side is only $13.50. There aren’t many better values in DC. Want to eat good, eat cheap, eat the District? Eat El Pollo Sabroso.