Food & Drink

FOOD: El Rancho Peruvian Restaurant in Northern Virginia

by Laurette Cidonnie Green

Strip mall storefront

My friend and I had been trying to do lunch since October.  I am a food adventurer and she is working on coming out of her food shell.  Eating together is a way to do both—plus it is always fun to try out a new place with someone else.

I had been looking for Mexican restaurants not that far from where she worked.  Yes, I know, Mexican is not very exotic.  But I wasn’t thinking Taco Bell, or even Chipotle [one of my staples back in Colorado].  I was leaning more authentic.  This area of Virginia is teeming with first and second generation American’s and the food they bring with them.

And so I found a restaurant, El Rancho Peruvian Style Chicken and Latin Grill, located in a strip mall at the Beltway (I-495) and Backlick Road in Virginia.  You’re thinking—strip mall in the Suburbs?  And I agree.  It is not accessible by metro.  It has very little bus service, and even by car, you can’t get to it easily from a highway [there is no exit there, although it literally backs up to the beltway.]  This strip mall boasted a slew of different ethnic restaurants and a grocery store.  I would go back even if El Rancho was bad.  So much more to try.

However, when I arrived for lunch, it was packed with blue and white collar workers.  Food prices were listed on a sign on the wall and ranged in the $6 to $12 dollar range for entrees.  The staff behind the counter were busy preparing orders to stay and take out and there was a row of rotisserie chickens laid out on the counter as well as more in the oven on the back wall.

Chicken plate

I have had Peruvian chicken before and it was most definitely my intention to order it.  First time at a new place, I almost exclusively go for what they are most known for.  If it is good, I will go back and be more adventurous with the menu.  If not, they probably end up on my do not return list.

The counter

So I ordered the ¼ rotisserie chicken with sweet plantains and black beans and rice and the Maracuya (passion fruit) drink.  If I had a Caribbean or Latin American mama, I would have slapped her for the beans and rice alone.  The chicken was tender, extremely juicy and perfectly seasoned.  The maracuya tasted, as my friend said, “like summertime in a sip.”  And the plantains were done perfectly.

This was my friend’s first time having Peruvian food and she ordered the grilled steak tacos with the beans and rice.    We both had enough food left over for a second meal, and my leftovers were just as tasty as the first time.  She was thoroughly impressed and plans to start ordering lunch from there [they deliver] now that she knows it exists.  A new convert to Peruvian food.

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They have also have a second location in Arlington at Columbia Pike and South Glebe. If you live or work near the Pentagon, Crystal City, or Shirlington, I suggest giving them a try.