Pollo Tropical (Columbia Park Shopping Center)
3103 Kennedy Blvd, North Bergen, NJ
374 Route 3 West, Riverfront Center, Clifton, NJ
771 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY
Web Site: http://www.pollotropical.com
If you live in South Florida, the Pollo Tropical quick-serve restaurants are among the best alternatives to the usual suspect fast food chains, with their clean and bright colored tropical-themed dining rooms and their flame-grilled marinated chicken, served Caribbean-style. With 75 stores in Florida, Pollo Tropical recently opened 3 stores in the NJ/NYC metro area, with two in Northern NJ and one initial store in Brooklyn.
In Northern NJ Pollo Tropical faces huge competition from many independent and well-established Pollo a La Brasa restaurants, such as the very popular Colombian Pollos Mario NY/NJ mini-chain and any number of other Latino-owned roast chicken places in Union City, North Bergen and West New York.
However, I think they have an interesting angle, in that they appear to be more non-Latino friendly than the other restaurants in the area. The counter staff at the establishments are fluent English-speaking and the stores have clear menus in English. The menus are limited to variations of a few different items and easy to understand, and while the featured dishes themselves are not hardcore Cuban, Dominican or Puerto Rican (with the exception of the Ropa Vieja) they are items that have broad appeal, such as the chicken, pork and steak sandwiches, plates and salads. The BBQ-grilled chickens themselves, the signature dish of the restaurant, are excellent and are cooked properly to order. The restaurant chain is very healthy-eating focused and provides nutritional data for every item at the restaurant with printed-out pamphlets.
The Pollo Tropical store at Columbia Park Shopping Center in North Bergen.
Pollo Tropical brings the taste of Miami to New York and New Jersey. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below.
Counter area, with a view of the grills
Condiment area. We really liked the curry mustard sauce and the Guava BBQ. Pollo Tropical’s hot sauce is also made with Red Amazon Peppers and Cane Vinegar, so its not your typical hot sauce.
Ropa Vieja, a traditional Cuban and Puerto Rican dish made with braised beef that is cooked until it falls apart, and is served over Sofrito-seasoned yellow rice, salad and beans.
Maduros, deep fried sweet plantains. A must order.
Sides — rice and beans, yuca with garlic sauce, and tomato onion salad, all of which we thought were very good.
Mango “TropiChiller”. This was like an Ice-E or a 7-11 Slurpee, very sweet, a bit of a disappointment. I was hoping for more of a fruit shake like a Cuban Batido.
Roast Pork sandwiches, a fast food take on Pan con Lechon. Unlike the Cuban style from which it is derived, this bread is not panini grilled and pressed, but it is very good quality sandwich bread, kind of like a Ciabatta roll. The pork was nice and juicy, had a great grilled flavor and was well-seasoned. The French Fries were also excellent and were made with fresh cut potatoes (or a superior frozen variety, it was hard to tell) and still had the skins on them.
Half BBQ Roast Chicken, the main event. These are cooked split open and flattened on the flame grill, and the skin is allowed to become crispy. The meat was still nice and juicy, even the breast, and was seasoned Caribbean-style. Probably the best fast-food chicken I’ve ever had.