Review: Chicken Meal from Pollo Campero

Recent rumblings of an all-out Chicken War in the Twin Cities grabbed the B-section headlines of the local paper.  Apparently, the owner of about 14 local KFC franchises is headed for bankruptcy and was looking to unload his property.  Guess who wants to buy up these failing stores?  Popeyes.  Throw into the mix, the rumor that Chick-fil-A was looking to expand from its few on-campus locations to a number of sites around the metro area and you’ve got yourself a royal cluck-off.  The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul have always been a one-chicken town with the possible exception of when Hardee’s used to keep chicken under a heat lamp in the late 80’s and early 90’s.   With all this dust-up, one might wonder if there’s still room for someone to challenge the corporate machine that some left-leaning politicians might call Big Chicken.  A recent drive down Robert Street into South St. Paul turned up a quiet challenger.  It goes by the name: Pollo Campero.The Pollo Campero website reveals they are an upstart franchise with about 50 locations nationwide, mostly in New England, Florida and southern California.  The one I found is the only location listed in the 5 state area.  I was particularly intrigued by this restaurant because of the implications of a cross between Mexican food Guatemalan/Central American food and fried chicken.  I suppose I’m generalizing to say that fried chicken is not, itself, Mexican food Guatemalan/Central American food, but as it turns out, I was indeed in for an interesting combo. As I entered the establishment, and looked around, I half expected to see Walt and Jesse at a booth in the corner, but after concluding that the zit-faced teenager behind the counter was probably not a drug kingpin, I re-focused my attention to the menu.  I chose the Fried Chicken Dinner with sides of corn tortillas and fried plantains.It seemed like the best choice to be able to sample their basic offering and add in a little traditional Mexican Guatemalan/Central American flair.  I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with the corn tortillas so I hit the salsa bar and grabbed a few flavors.  Then, after taking a few enjoyable, but not overly exciting bites of the chicken leg, I decided to shred some of the good meat off with a fork and make myself a taco with my side of tortillas, the shredded chicken, salsas and some sour cream which came with the meal.  Now we’re talkin’.The fried chicken didn’t strike me as a real competitor with the likes of KFC, or the other newcomers to our market, but I think mostly had to do with the lack of flavorful breading we’ve come to expect.  The chicken itself, when I took it off the bone and enjoyed it as part of my taco, was quite good; moist and tender.  The salsas were top notch, obviously born of authentic recipes and ingredients.  It had been awhile since I’d tried plantains and these were better than I remember the last ones being.  All in all, the addition of a little Mexican ***we get it, it’s not Mexican at all*** flair to the run of the mill chicken made for a nice diversion.

Pros: Good quality food; authentic salsas and other Mexican food offerings; interesting combo - fried chicken and tortillas. ***Correction: Not Mexican

Cons: Not a front runner for fried chicken of the year trophy.

Taste: 7.00/10
Value: 8.00/10
Grubbing on-the-go: N/A
Price: $4.99

Overall GrubGrade: 7.00/10

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35 comments on “Review: Chicken Meal from Pollo Campero

  1. john says:

    Funny, I just moved and have one down the street i just figured it was a hispanic chain since its mostly in the hispanic corner of town. I would be so lost given those tortillas and probably put them in my fridge for when i have tacos next

  2. Dan says:

    The Mpls/St Paul area is definitely lacking in the chicken dept….1 Popeye’s (S Mpls), 1 Chik-Fil-A (U of M) 1 Raising Cane’s (U of M), 1 Campero (W St. Paul), and then KFC. With the rise in destination shopping areas (Arbor Lakes, Riverdale (Coon Rapids) etc) you would think these chains would want to expand their business footprint here…’s a 15-20 min + drive for me to any of those except KFC’s. Never been to ChikFil, but I do try to get to Cane’s every now and again.

  3. Bob Smith says:

    From what I can tell (having been to one in Houston), Pollo Campero is far more Central American than Mexican.

  4. Was the teenager behind the counter rude or mean to you? If not, I don’t see the point of making fun of him for your “review”. I though the comment was pretty mean-spirited of you.

    • Manavee says:

      Murray managed to piss off both Guatemalans and zit faced teenagers in a single post! I, for one, salute Murray because I think that’s quite an accomplishment.

  5. MP says:

    You mean I missed my chance to open a Cluckin Chicken in St Paul/Minneapolis?

    Here we’ve had KFC, Popeyes, Brown’s (with its battered mushrooms) & White Fence Farm (sweet corn fritters) which all have been unremarkable in the past 20+ years. It’s no different that supermarket fried chicken, if you can believe that.

    Pollo Campero certainly is an interesting concept. Next time I’m in the city I’ll hit it.

  6. Tyler M says:

    Loved the Breaking Bad reference! Exactly what I started thinking when I saw Mexican and Fried Chicken.

  7. raiders757 says:

    If anything should be considered “Big Chicken”, it would have to be KFC, and it says a lot that the local franchisee has to go out of business. KFC has gone downhill ever since Pepsi-Co/Yum Brands bought them out. This “Pollo Campero” looks kind of sad to be honest, and as sad as it may seem, your town is better served if a Popeye’s and a Chick-Fil-A moves in.

  8. Jessica O. says:

    I live in Lowertown so I’ve been to this Pollo Campero quite a few times. Chicken is OK, the Yuca Fries are great… Just don’t do the drive-thru because you’ll wait about 10 minutes at the window. Oh, and I haven’t tried the grilled chicken, but everyone says it’s WAY better than the fried.

    Oh, and just a warning: DO NOT go to the Pineda Tacos just up the hill. Not. Good.

  9. Simon says:

    It’s not Mexican. Pollo Campero is a 40-year old company (so, not upstart) that serves Guatemalan-style food.

  10. Rebeka says:

    This sounds like El Pollo Loco except EPL is not fried. Any chance you have eaten at an EPL?

  11. That looks really good, a very different change from the normal chicken places.

    Popeye’s is definitely starting to ramp up their expansion efforts, they really are a better chicken place than KFC and kind of sort of healthier and with the addition of seafood on their menu, they blow KFC out of the water. Biscuits and sides are better too.

  12. Dan says:

    Rebeka – as far as chains go, there are no El Pollo’s here in the Mpls/St. Paul area……as I stated earlier, we have 1 ea of Chik-Fil-A, Cane’s. and Campero. Otherwise it’s KFC,

  13. Alex K. says:

    I’ve been at their Bay Shore, NY location. Much like the review, I was so-so on the place except for the salsas. This is about 15 miles to my west and 5 miles closer to me than the nearest Popeye’s.

    El Pollo Loco was actually slated to expand into the NYC metro area and I think opened a few stores in NE NJ but looks like it failed with the 2008-9 recession.

  14. Alex K. says:

    Forgot to mention, that leaves only KFC and Pudgies (which is cobranded with Nathan’s and Arthur Treacher’s) for my part of LI.

  15. Nathan Gentry says:

    There are some in the DC area (Manassas and Gathersburg, maybe others), and the few times I’ve eaten there, I liked what I got. Any place that serves plantains is good in my book.

  16. Anne Sutton says:

    I have spent a lot of time in Central America over the past two years. Certainly Campero was a presence in San Salvador, El Salvador. There was like one every half a mile. While visiting Nicaragua, I also ran into a few; however, in this country, Tip Top chicken was the more prevalent chain. Tip Top has the same concept with the tortillas. They make a delicious tres leches cake too. It’s a much better dessert option than a fried apple pie from many of the U.S. chains. I really enjoyed all of my visits to Tip Top in Nicaragua. It was certainly a fun way to eat chicken! The sides of beans, onions and tomatoes were always good.

  17. Ljay says:

    I dined at one from time to time when I was in Dallas and I didn’t even know they had fried chicken. The grilled is the way to go imo. When it was fresh it bordered on fabulous.

  18. Anthony says:

    Pollo Campero is a Guatemalan chain, not a Mexican chain.

  19. Pollo Campero is a ried chicken chain born in Guatemala, nothing Mexican about it, get your facts straight. The company itself says their food is a combination of Latin aMERICAN FLAVORS

  20. arctrooper says:

    It’s a Guatemalan chain and it mainly focuses on Central American meals, not necessarily Mexican food.

  21. Griffin says:

    This was in my area… and there are lots of Hispanics in my city of Springfield, MA. It was located on a busy street where many college kids drive down. It didn’t do too well… poor management maybe? The idea was good… but they closed and a Sonic took its place… and a Popeyes down the road.

  22. Sandy says:

    Geez folks, Ryan got the difference between Mexican and Central American fare, let’s stop beating him up. I really don’t understand the negative comments towards the owners of this blog. They are trying to provide some info on the food industry and quite frankly, I think they do a great job. Stop hating or start your own blog if you feel you can do better. Geez!

  23. Anthony says:

    No worries about the confusion, cheers for updating the blog post! It’s pretty cool that a chain from Guatemala has become a huge fried chicken competitor not only in the United States, but also in the Middle East and Asia. I believe that PC puts rosemary in the batter, but I could be mistaken.

    If you ever take a flight home from Guatemala to the United States you’ll notice passengers bringing large bright orange suitcases (i.e. boxes) of the chicken home to relatives in the US. (Of course, not quite as necessary now given the ever-increasing proliferation of Camperos up North.)

  24. Jesse Pinkman says:

    Pollo Tropical is the same type of fair except the chicken is amazing as are the rice and black beans, plantains, rolls etc. It’s a shame there aren’t any in NYC, but I used to go a lot when I lived in Florida.

    I miss Firehouse Subs, Chick fil a, Jimmy Johns, Pollo Tropical and other places NYC lacks! Replace some of these expensive, exclusive restaurants with these chains please.

  25. Jacqui says:

    My husband and I have been referring to El Pollo Loco as “Los Pollos Hermanos” ever since season 2 of Breaking Bad.

  26. Tom B says:

    No. The “chicken war” begins and ends with Raising Cane’s. There is actually more than the one location at the U, there’s also a location in Apple Valley. I don’t see a review for that on this site but I highly recommend it (Box combo, substitute an extra toast instead of coleslaw, and add an extra Cane’s sauce, sweet tea to drink) and would be very surprised to not see a great review on this site.

    The AV location is right next to a KFC/A&W combo and the parking lots are almost always filled 3:1 in favor of Raising Cane’s. I hope to see it on here soon… it really is a great fast food option!

  27. Mark says:

    lmao how did I miss this article. First thing I said when I saw the sign was does Gus Fring own this? awesome

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