If you play your cards right, one of the best parts about skipping town can stem from the road you take to get to where you're going. If you live in Brooklyn, like I do, and are headed out to Long Island or even upstate, you get to pass through Queens. Along the way, there's a little place in Rego Park that serves pollo a la brasa, or Peruvian rotisserie chicken. It sits on Woodhaven Blvd, on the edge of a small stretch of bodegas and other restaurants, next to a large housing development. The restaurant has been family-owned and operated since 1994. With an exterior painted in brick red, it blends with its surroundings, making it hard to spot when driving by. I missed it myself and had to turn around.
There are only seven tables inside, mostly four-tops, all covered in white tablecloths. Upon being seated, a server will lay down menus and slide a freshly filled receptacle of lime green sauce called aji verde onto your table. This condiment—tangy and creamy like ranch dressing, with the addition of jalapeños, aji amarillo paste, and cilantro—is essential. It goes with the restaurant's signature chicken like PB & J. A lime-juice driven marinade lends an acidic kick to the juicy birds. Their skin comes caramelized but not crispy.
Decision-making is easy here: Half or whole? Maduros or tostones plantains? Avocado salad? Rice and beans? The food comes quickly, the bill is affordable, only cash is accepted, and there's take-out but no delivery. All day, there's a steady stream of folks popping in to pay and pick up at the host stand. It's a straightforward operation that leaves little room for error, and that's why there are more than one.
Now boasting nine eateries in total across Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx, and Queens, this is the original location of a mini-chain. The other, more sizable outposts offer a broader selection of food and drinks, like ceviches and pisco-based cocktails. But here in Rego Park, as the website proudly states, they're "glad to have kept #1 the same as it's always been, sticking with the basics and embracing [their] humble beginning."
There's something to say about going straight to the source; experiencing an institution at its origin. It's not always necessary or possible, but it's often worth it.
Pio Pio 1
62-30 Woodhaven Blvd, Rego Park, NY 11374
Things I read this week (and liked):
Very entertaining: Wine and weed go to war in Oregon [The Outline]
I love Bill Addison's newsletter because he brings to life places I've never been (through food, of course), and his latest on summertime in Alabama is a gem [via Eater]
I've never been to Glaser's, and now it's too late! If anyone happens to be in Yorkville today, buy me a black-and-white cookie and I will love you forever. [Grub Street]
The beach is my favorite thing about summer. So, obviously, I loved this primer on regional beach food in America [Eater]
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