The Chicken Challenge
By Elena Alvarado
While Fiambre and Pepian may be most traditional celebratory cuisines in Guatemala, fried chicken is undoubtedly the most popular. The sheer number of such outlets certainly make it the country’s most available food option, but stop by any chicken restaurant on a holiday or weekend and you’ll surely see families celebrating a special occasion with many parts of our favorite deep fried avian. But with so many choices out there, how to decide where to best clog your arteries? Once again, XelaWho comes to the rescue, putting Xela’s top fried chicken chains through a rigorous scientific taste test. We ordered a 2 piece combo meal at each place, here’s how they came out.
To start, we’ll go with the most local of chains with locations only in Xela (except for that one weird location that is halfway to Reu). Albamar is a real sit down restaurant with a diverse menu, though a principal feature (including their logo) is chicken. Certainly the slowest of the options, it had the most flavorful fried crust while the chicken itself was tasty if slightly dry. It was Q40 for a combo meal that came with a drink, mealy fries (though with Heinz ketchup!) and tortillas (for a traditional touch).
A more barebones option, Pollo Pinulito had a sit down area though it was oddly separated from the counter area by a wall of bars. A national chain, it has 4 branches in Xela and an untold number throughout Guatemala (mainly because the woman at the counter had no idea). Having walked by it many times, it is almost always crowded (except when I tried to go at 8pm on Saturday when it was closed) and with good reason: the chicken had the perfect combination of a very crispy outside and a very moist inside. It was a good deal at Q24 for the combo, which includes fries and a mayonnaise salad most closely resembling coleslaw but no drink.
Though only for takeout, Pollolandia had very juicy and flavorful chicken, likely due to their special marinating process. The outside was not very crispy, though to be fair it looked like the pieces I bought had been sitting there for a while. With five branches in Xela, this is the most economical of the places we visited and wins the award for best name hands down.
To finish off we’ll evaluate the most famous of Guatemalan chicken chains: Pollo Campero. With huge pieces (their breasts were nearly twice the size of any other place) perfectly fried every time, Campero is a formidable contender. While the chicken was moist inside, once you eat the tasty fried layer, the chicken itself was slightly bland. And at Q42 for a combo meal, it is one of the higher priced options.
In summary, the best chicken for the money was Pinulito, though this is basically only a takeout option (unless you enjoy feeling like you’re eating in prison). For more upscale and pricier restaurants, Campero gives you the biggest and most consistently good chicken, while Albamar is tastier overall. If forced to choose one, while Albamar’s local feel and classy bow-tied waiters make for an enjoyable meal, I’d give Campero the nod for fast service and better people watching. And with Campero you can also enjoy it when you’re back home as they’re on 4 continents (the Andorra location is supposed to be particularly nice) though be sure to tell people there that it tastes better in Guatemala.