Cheap Eats 2007: El Pollo Rico, Arlington

The guys with the cleavers—whack! whack! whack!—work way too close to their fingers. But somehow the choppers at these beloved local places, where the lines on a midweek night stretch to the door, never seem to miss.

The cooking is just as true. Indians, Asians, Latinos, baby-strollers, business suits, cops—all flock to the storefronts for their fix. There are plenty of chicken shops in town, but none has mastered the process like these guys, from the 24-hour soak in a cumin-spiked paste of Peruvian peppers to the slow, careful tending over an open flame. The result is a bird that’s tangy and tender. Another attraction: the clean, bright atmosphere, more picnic area than polleria.

Skip the fries that replace the yucca in Arlington, and don’t miss the surprise in Wheaton: a flan that is light and full of caramel taste.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.