Sunday, August 21, 2011

...Chicken Latino

I don’t like crowds.

That’s kind of funny considering that A.) I’m a teacher, who works in a school, which has crowded hallways between classes, and B.) I also work at an amusement park, where crowds are the norm.
Probably the part that I don’t like the most is constantly feeling like I’m in the way.  In a large crowd, if someone needs to get through, you move as far out of the way as possible so that he/she can pass, right?  Well, not everyone does that, and then I feel bad, so I move – so I’m constantly moving!  Does anyone else in the world have that feeling?  Ever?  Or am I just strange?
The other part that bothers me a great deal is waiting because of a crowd.  Waiting in traffic, waiting to get out of a building, or waiting for a table at a restaurant drives me crazy.  If I see a crowd at a restaurant, I immediately think, “No way am I eating here,” or “I should’ve come earlier,” or “I should’ve made a reservation [if possible].”
Check out this picture that I took this morning.  This is the line to get into the famous Pamela’s Diner on 21st Street in the Strip District this past Sunday morning:

I had no intention of eating at Pamela’s, anyway, so I wasn’t upset by it, but…why would anyone want to wait around?  I guess its breakfast is really delicious and popular, and it was Sunday, and they have “regulars”, but…it was almost noon by this point.  There are so many other places to eat in The Strip, why would anyone want to flock to the SAME place all of the time for the SAME food – and wait around so long for it? 
Luckily, I had other plans – right across the street from Pamela’s:

When I first had the idea for this extra credit project, Chicken Latino was one of the first places that I contacted – and one of the first that contacted me.  In fact, the owner, Shelbin, called me as soon as she got my letter!  I was shocked at her quick response, and she was incredibly nice and supportive.  I knew I had to try Chicken Latino as soon as possible.
I asked my brother if he wanted to come with me to the Strip District, since he’s usually looking for something to do on a Sunday afternoon, and he agreed – although I didn’t tell him about Chicken Latino until we were on our way (oops).  I mean, if he likes Las Velas, he should like Chicken Latino, too, right?
Well, to clarify, Chicken Latino is Peruvian.  Las Velas is Mexican.  There are similarities, though.
When we arrived, we went to the counter and were asked if we wanted our food to go or if we were going to eat in.  Since we were eating in, we were told that we could have a seat, and the waitress would bring us menus (Hey, no waiting!  Hooray!).  
Our waitress, Christy, was very detailed in her explanation of the menu – the weekday menu was on the table, but we were handed the weekend menu, which also had – oh boy – ceviche!  Real ceviche!  The kind that is raw fish cured in lime juice to be “cooked”!  I knew what I was ordering.  My brother ordered a chicken quesadilla.
They also had slushies in mango and wild berry – made with real fruit!  I ordered a mango slushie.  My brother?  Coke.
Appetizers - Yucca fries, a root vegetable, similar to jicama or rutabagas, sounded intriguing…mmmm…but my brother, of course, wanted chips and salsa.  We ordered both. 
Christy brought out our Yucca fries and chips and salsa, and also 5 packets of mayonnaise and a bottle of “green stuff”, as she referred to it.  She said that in Peru, they mix together the green stuff and mayonnaise, and dip their Yucca fries into it like ketchup.  She later explained that the “green stuff” was cilantro, peppers, and bread crumbs, they make it fresh there every day, and they also sell it by the bottle.  Tempting, but it would probably go bad before I would use it all – and I also don’t need to be eating mayonnaise every day.
The chips and salsa weren’t anything spectacular, but I loved, loved…wait for it…LOVED the Yucca fries with the dipping sauce!  So did my brother.
My ceviche was amazing.  After eating all of those fries, having something light and delicious for my main course was refreshing.
And my slushie?  It was great.  It tasted just like a mango…which is also what I had for breakfast that morning.

I like mangoes.  A lot. 
My brother’s quesadilla – it was HUGE!  It also had tons of black beans in it, which he was not expecting, but he ate every last bite of it.  I tried a piece of it, and guess what?  No surprise, it was fantastic!  

I had read on Twitter earlier that morning that it was someone’s birthday there, and that Shelbin had made her a pumpkin sweet bread with melted marshmallows on top (she posted a picture…*drool*).  I noticed that Christy was wearing a “Happy Birthday” ribbon, so I asked her if she was the one they made the bread for that I had seen on Twitter.  She said yes, and without hesitation, offered us a piece. 
I like pumpkin, too.  A lot.
Christy was so nice to share her birthday bread (¡que rico!) with us, to be so friendly in explaining the menu, and to chat with me about the extra credit project – yet another reason to love Chicken Latino!
There are so many other things on their menu that I want to try: the Peruvian-style chicken (which is what I was going to get originally, but then they had ceviche, and all bets were off), plantains, flan, “Inka Kola” (Peruvian pop, essentially), and “chicha morada”, a purple Peruvian corn juice. 
The other great part of Chicken Latino is that their prices are very reasonable.  For as much as we ate, the bill for the two of us was only about $32 – and we could have ordered less and still had a satisfying lunch (although I’m glad we had what we did!)

The people that work in Chicken Latino wear shirts that say “I <3 Chicken Latino” (ok, so the heart isn’t sideways, but you know what I mean).  I understand why completely - fresh, authentic food, great atmosphere, great staff, affordable prices – oh yeah, and no waiting!  I can’t say enough good things about my experience, so I will end with this…
Me encanta Chicken Latino.  Nos vemos otra vez muy, muy pronto.  Gracias por todo.

Chicken Latino
155 21st Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Chicken Latino on Urbanspoon

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