Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Around this time last year I found myself on a flight from Comalapa to JFK where a significant number of my fellow passengers were wearing protective face masks, either because of the perceived threat of swine flu, or because of the more immediately looming menace of Pollo Campero odours wafting around the cabin.

A few years ago V was returning to London on a Continental flight which was diverted away from Houston by a severe storm. She did eventually reach her intermediate destination, but too late for the connecting flight, so she and a small group of similarly displaced chapines, found themselves being bused to a Day's Inn close to George Bush International for an unscheduled overnight stop.

For the duration of this extended detour V had found herself beside a lady of advanced years from Flores who was clutching a small box of chicken pieces from Campero. As the hours passed another passenger advised this viejita to cut her losses and just eat the (#&*%$) chicken herself — the airline hadn't exactly been falling over itself to pamper its inconvenienced customers — but she insisted that this whiffy little package was intended as her special gift to her daughter in el norte...with the implication that she'd rather starve than tuck in herself.

Yes, the people of this land sure love their pollo, and for those of us that feel a certain amount of disgust at both the factory-farmed, fast food and the off-the-tree, self-garroted options, Antigua offers a number of alternatives. (I for one can't take a bite of P.C. without thinking of that awful Gutiérrez bloke on Libre Encuentro.)

Not long ago Epicure was at the high end of the roasted chicken market in Antigua, charging Q57 for a dish which usually had to be ordered in advance. Elsewhere, pollos rostizados could be found for Q10-20 less in various parts of town, but for some reason there has since been an almost uniform price hike to the Q60 level, which has left Epicure's offering looking suddenly rather competitive. I do like the stuffed birds that they make available around Christmas, but recently, whenever I've bought the more generic model, it's been presented to me in a somewhat shrivelled state. Of course this may just be a result of poor timing on my part. Because when it comes to buying roast chickens in Antigua, timing is all important.

We've recently settled on Alina's (opposite Santa Lucía at the southern end of the Calzada) as the best overall bet for impulse pollo purchases. They start the spits turning early on and shut up fairly early, so this is essentially a lunchtime option, but a strongly recommended one, because the chickens are roasted to perfection — complete with hilo de amarre — and handed to customers in an attractive take-away container. (see pic)

After 7:30 pm there's always La Perrada (aka — affectionately — 'La Forrada') on the west side of the Calzada, but it's probably best to wait an hour or so more, because the last time we tried one of these, it had the rather rubbery texture of a pollo cooked con prisa. They also roast the somewhat greasier yellow (corn-fed) birds, which are less to our taste than the white ones, and shortly before serving, brush them with a blood-red sauce which imprints on them a Tandoori-style seasoning, more sensible to the nose than to the tongue.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What is it between guanacos and Pollo Campero? Try telling them that it is a Guatemalan company. The only reason that I can see for this freakish, childish infatuation is that many of the people who bring Pollo Campero on board an airplane must associate with it with something much more than just food from home. It must represent birthdays, first restaurant, remesas from the US. The people who love Pollo Campero above all foods are those who are separated by a generation from being descalzos. I like Pollo Campero but I would not like to eat it as my birthday meal.