Discover Bethesda, Maryland...365 Days a Year!

Day 333: There's a new Chicken IN town – Nando's Peri-Peri

The Cockerel - symbol of faith, justice & good luck

As the cold days of winter soon head to Bethesda, keep in mind there is one place in town guaranteed to heat you up any time of year – the new Nando’s Peri-Peri on Bethesda Ave, the new chicken IN town!  Nando’s Peri-Peri has moved into the retail space previously occupied by Chicken Out Rotisserie.

Nando’s began in the late 1980’s in South Africa and has since expanded to over 35 countries around the globe.  There are over 500 restaurants in the Afro-Portuguese grilled-chicken chain that features the famous Peri-Peri sauce.

What exactly is Peri-Peri sauce?  This is really something that is better experienced than explained – but let me warn you it’s HOT!  Peri-Peri sauce gets its hot punch from the Bird’s Eye Chili.  All chilis owe their origin to Central and South America where the Spanish and the Portuguese first colonized.  The legend of Peri-Peri begins with the Portuguese travels to the southern tip of Africa in present day Mozambique.  Using the Bird’s Eye Chili (called Pilli Pilli by the Africans and pronounced Peri-Peri by the Portuguese) to season their meats, the popularity of Peri-Peri sauce and the flavorful taste grew.

When hot just isn't HOT enough!

Amy's Order

Our visit will be burned into our minds and tongues for some time to come.  I tried the Chicken Breast Sandwich with grilled pineapple for lunch served on a Portuguese roll with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.  You order your sandwich and then indicate how hot you want it.  Here’s where you need to be careful.  Your choices on the “Peri-ometer” are:

  • Extra Hot – described as “A real throat-scorcher.”  Their warning is “Spice savvy (or reckless bravado) required.”
  • HOT – described as “Eye-wateringly fiery. For serious chili fiends only.”
  • Medium – “Tolerable heat. Think typical summer day – without the rain.”
  • Lemon +Herb
  • Plain (for the kids)

I ordered it medium and was still drinking water to remove the heat by dinner.  Amy, being the more adventurous foody between us, went straight for an order of HOT Butternut Squash & Couscous Salad with oven-roasted chicken, red onion, olives and grilled corn.   She still isn’t sure whether it is a winner because the fire in her mouth overran the flavors!  “Wow! Next time, I’m going with the MEDIUM spice,” she lamented.

As if the chicken was not seasoned enough there are Peri-Peri sauces on the side that can be liberally added to any dish.  If it’s a hot spicy meal you’re after this is the place.

There is no shortage of humor throughout your dining experience at Nando’s Peri-Peri.  The guys in the back working the grill wear shirts that say, “Licensed to Grill” and “Hot Chick Lover.”  The salt and pepper shaker is shaped like an egg and the napkins are printed with,“Face it, you’re a messy eater”.

Nando’s is serious about one thing though – art!  They commission original works from South African artists and currently have a collection of over 3,000 pieces.  Their flare for the artistic even spills outside the restaurant to the exterior walls.  Anyone who drives down Bethesda Ave can’t help but notice.  The edgey and unique art that decorates the walls outside has been described in a previous blog.

Exterior Graffiti Art

I’ve also mentioned the really cool new Coca Cola Freestyle machine – what I call the iCoke machine with over 100 flavors available.  God forbid if the hi-tech machine ever breaks down because it’s the only way to cool the burn in this place!

Check OUT the new Chicken IN town (sometimes I make myself chuckle) and find out why this restaurant is one of the hottest food chains around – for real. ~ Brian

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