Nando's Peri-Peri Restaurant Review - The Spice of Legend

The popular African Portuguese restaurant, Nando’s Peri-Peri, known worldwide for its spicy flame-grilled chicken, recently opened in a new location April 30th, 2016 at 1138 Lake Street, Oak Park, Illinois. This location is one of two in suburban Chicago, the other being Naperville. Chicago areas include:  Clyborn, Lakeview, Wabash, and the West Loop, with additional locations in Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

 

 

Nando's Peri-Peri (Oak Park)

 

Besides the famous flame-grilled chicken, Nando’s is well known for its spicy African Bird’s Eye chili, peri-peri, which was said to “put fire in the Portuguese explorer’s bellies and ignite passion in the souls.” The recipe dates back several centuries ago. Nando’s was founded by Fernando Duarte in Rosettenville, South Africa, and first opened on July 3rd, 2008, in Washington, D.C. Since then, more than 13 locations have opened (see above). In July of 2016, watch for the new locations to open in Streeterville, the South Loop, North and Clyborn, and Monroe and Randolph.

 

Nando’s is very serious and passionate about preparing healthy and delicious food for its customers. Chicken is delivered fresh every day. Their food is free of preservatives, colors, and artificial flavors. The popular spicy sauce is also available to purchase in bottles for home cooking. The spiciness ranges from mild, medium, garlic-hot and extra hot. The menu is cleverly organized, and offers a pepper chart graphic that rates the spiciness of the sauce. The menu also includes appetizer snacks, salads, sides, sandwiches, wraps, pitas, vegetarian options (very good for me!), a kids’ menu, and various desserts.

 

When I reviewed dinner at the new Oak Park location, it had been open for only three weeks. I brought along a friend who enjoys Nando’s meat dishes. Downtown Oak Park is a lovely area with family homes, restaurants, and quaint shops. Nando’s is a perfect addition to the community. The manager, Crystal, smiled and welcomed us to the restaurant. We chose outdoor seating; it was a lovely warm evening and nice to be eating alfresco.

 

As for the interiors of the restaurant, it was a lively dining space that popped with bright colors. The interior designer was from Oak Park, adding a personal touch to the décor. Paintings decorated the walls and booths. Chandeliers of recycled books spines hung from the ceiling.

 

  

Dining area

 

 

Dining area

 

 

Dining area

 

 

Book spine chandeliers

 

 

Dining booths

 

 

Dining area

 

To order your food, Nando’s hands you a stick with a rooster on it and your table number. You choose your food, order at the counter, and hand over your table number stick. When your meal is ready, the server finds your table with the stick.

 

 

Ordering counter

 

The menu itself is simple, yet delicious and effective, considering that the food is fresh, seasoned, and cooked. My guest and I ordered tart and citrusy blood orange and mango lemonade, garnished with slices of blood orange.

 

 

Blood orange and mango lemonade

 

Entrees included the Chicken “Burger” extra spicy for my friend (chicken sandwich with pineapple and cheddar cheese) and a side of tasty and crisp fries. She really enjoyed the juiciness of the burger and the spicy sauce. I chose the Portobello Mushroom and Halloumi Wrap for myself, which was a great vegetarian option (roasted and served in a whole wheat wrap with chili jam). The mushrooms were nicely grilled with the spicy chili jam and the halloumi cheese paired well with the dish as a whole. Salty halloumi cheese is fantastic to grill with. Even at high temperatures, it still holds it shape and does not melt.

 

 

Chicken "burger" (chicken sandwich with pineapple and cheddar cheese) with a side of peri fries and salted mayo

 

  

Portobello mushroom and halloumi wrap (roasted and served in a whole wheat wrap with chilli jam) with a side of flame-grilled corn on the cob

 

I also chowed down on flame-grilled corn on the cob as my side dish. It was fresh and not seasoned. To jazz it up a bit, I added Nando’s special salted mayonnaise, to which I became addicted very quickly: I kept dipping my friend’s fries into it! Adding the mayo to the corn really gave it zing.

 

Our desserts were small samples of coconut macaroons (a blend of coconut and vanilla) and traditional Portuguese Naughty Natas (baked custard tart, served warm with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar). The macaroons were rather bland for my taste. However, the naughty natas were absolutely amazing-the delicate basked custard melted in my mouth. They were a nice ending to a wonderful meal.

 

Coconut Macaroons

 

Naughty natas (traditional Portuguese custard tart, served warm with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar)

 

Based on our experience at Oak Park’s Nando’s, it would seem this location is here to stay. I wish all you future customers a great meal at Nando’s in Oak Park, or as they say in Portugal, “Bon Proveito!”

 

 

 

Photos: Jennifer Lunz

 

 

 

For more information on Nando Peri-Peri locations, visit the website.

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