"We have the best chicken in Pittsburgh," says Art Evans about his wife's Peruvian-style wood-fired rotisserie chicken. "You won't find anything like it in the city."
Since opening the restaurant in August, Shelbin Santos' pollo a la brasa has created a buzz. During my recent Saturday-afternoon visit, a man from Washington, D.C., sat at one of the 10 tables in the Strip District restaurant and raved to Evans about the quality and taste of the cooking.
"What a nice blend of spices," the man gushed, who had heard about the polloria -- chicken joint -- through a friend. "I've had Peruvian-style chicken at many places and I'm very impressed."
Evans is hesitant to fork over the family's secret recipe. Santos is more forthcoming.
"I use a combination of cumin, garlic, cilantro and dried Peruvian chilies," says Santos. "We buy our chickens here in the Strip and I marinate them for 24 hours."
Santos brought her rotisserie from her native Peru. It's fueled by cords of wood that release even more delightful aromas into the already-perfumed Strip. She describes her standard menu as "scaled down," though there are about 20 choices of entrees and sides.
"I want to grow the business slowly, to see what works," she says. "We're still in a tasting phase."
If Santos finds pork that piques her fancy, she might work it into a special (using a similar blend of spices), and consider adding it to the menu.
For now there's chicken, by the quarter, half or whole, as well as hamburgers and grilled steak. Sides include salad, fat-cut fries, fried plantains, refried beans, fried yucca and rice. A kick-butt homemade green chili sauce also comes with all dishes.
Santos offers ceviche only on Saturdays -- because, she explains, it's a dish that specifically appeals to her Latino crowd, who come in that day.
"It's a fish dish that I marinate in lime juice, but a lot of Americans aren't familiar with it," says Santos. The ceviche is generally made with tilapia, but occasionally Santos will use calamari and other seafood.
"In Latin American, there are pollorias are on every corner in every neighborhood," Santos says. "But in Pittsburgh, we are the only one."
155 21st St., Strip District
412-246-0974 or www.chickenlatino.com