Not long ago, El Pollo Loco opened a drive-thru in my suburbs, snugly planted in that spot on the way home that tempts you to pick up a quick bite instead of cooking dinner. I figured it was a good thing, certainly better-than-average fast-food bird. But now that I’ve trekked out to Craig Road to get a taste of Central American chain Pollo Campero at its first Las Vegas location, I know what I’m missing.
Simply put, Pollo Campero brutalizes every other fast-food chicken outlet. Lines have been long since it opened in North Las Vegas in April, and another location is coming to East Charleston, but not soon enough for me. I’ll give EPL credit for tasty chicken—and stealing some of the KFC faithful with its mac and cheese and other all-American side dishes—but it can’t compete with the flavors at Pollo Campero.
First-timers should start with the half-chicken special ($9.49), which allows you to sample both grilled and fried varieties with two sides. Hiding beneath smoky, citrus-kissed skin, the grilled chicken is uncommonly juicy. While not quite as moist, the fried bird is tender and not overly breaded, allowing for crispy-chewy perfection. Dip it in guava barbecue or Latin buffalo sauce.
The sides also shame the competition, from zesty, porky Campero beans to creamy, cilantro-laden coleslaw. More authentic signatures like sweet fried plantains and yuca fries are even better. Throw in a couple of empanadas ($1.79 each) filled with chicken, corn salsa and melty cheese and it’s not even fair anymore.
Pollo Campero 1025 W. Craig Road, 702-633-7003.Daily, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.