Pollo Campero & Lakeforest Mall

We went to Pollo Campero for the first time in El Salvador. Since then, my only taste of it has been from buckets of cold chicken smuggled on Taca flights brought by visiting family.

(Fun fact: Carlos’s sister used to work at a Pollo Campero in El Salvador.)

I knew that the fast food Guatemalan chicken restaurants had been popping up in the United States for quite awhile but I just didn’t get around to visiting one until last weekend. The Lakeforest Mall location in Gaithersburg, Maryland has been open for several years.

Now, I was born and raised in Montgomery County, (or MoCo as it’s called by unassuming non-Spanish speakers who think that sounds cool.)

Lakeforest Mall is where my mother took us for back-to-school shopping – It’s across the street from the townhouses I lived in for the first year of my life. It’s where I skipped class and went to watch Jackie Chan movies, (there used to be a theater where the food court is now.) … Lakeforest Mall is 5 minutes down the street from where I met Carlos and it’s where Carlos and I spent time walking around as novios… In other words, it’s a familiar place – so when I heard rumors that Lakeforest Mall had become “ghetto” – I wanted to check it out.

(“Ghetto” – not my word, by the way, in case anyone out there is offended – I’m quoting.)

Anyway, visiting Pollo Campero was a good enough excuse for me. Off to Lakeforest Mall, pues.

So first we eat. Honestly, I can’t even remember what Pollo Campero tasted like in El Salvador, so I can’t compare them. The chicken was spicy and really good. The horchata was good though slightly watered down. The platanos were okay, (A little too ripe for my personal tastes and I prefer mine cut differently – that’s just me being picky though.)

The yuca frita dipped in this spicy Campero sauce was awesome. I will definitely go back for that.

I also liked the decor of the restaurant. This Spanglish sign was the best. “Flavor you can’t CAMPERO” – get it? … Clever.

And a little educational Latino pride never hurt.

Now, as for Lakeforest Mall itself – is it “ghetto”? In my opinion, not at all. It was clean, and though some high-end stores have been replaced, the quality and selection are still good. Maybe it isn’t as beautiful as it once was, (I remember there being fountains but they were turned off), but it’s still a nice mall.

So, what has changed the most? … The demographics of the shoppers. It felt almost like being in Miami again – the shoppers at the mall were an obvious Latino majority. This is drastically different from just 10 years ago, and worlds different from 20 years ago.

I tried to look at this from a gringa point-of-view. My conclusion is that maybe “ghetto” is just a code word that some people use when they really mean “there are more brown people than white people and that scares me.”

So, here’s the deal. The gringos who are now uncomfortable shopping at Lakeforest Mall, you can drive on over to Montgomery Mall instead.

As for me – Yo me quedo aquí…Pass the yuca frita.

Posted on March 29, 2011, in food/drink, Language, Latinidad, nostalgia, race, racism. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. I’ve only had Pollo Campero twice. Once in a PC in Madrid, Spain… and the second one when my roommate’s grandma went to visit her to Spain. She brought a box full of queso duro, tamales de elote, and Pollo Campero from Salvi! I should really try the one here in the States, I LOVE Yuca!!

    btw, i have a new blog and I’m doing a small giveaway, check it out here: http://mj4mark.blogspot.com/2011/03/mark-giveaway.html

  2. I never ate there bc I live in NY but I LOVE your ghetto comments. I Like you even more! Lol

    • Thanks, Lisa. It sounds funny, but I’m kind of being serious. LOL. Generally speaking, white people aren’t used to being the minority in any given situation. When they are, I think a lot aren’t sure how to deal with that. Some would see it as racism but I think “racist” should only be reserved for hateful individuals. There are a lot of white people who aren’t racist but come across that way just because they’ve lived relatively sheltered lives. Hopefully as the United States becomes more and more diverse, people like that will get more exposure to other kinds of people (whether those differences be race/language/ethnicity/religion/culture/socio-economic), and they will adapt.

  3. I’ve eaten there once or twice, but always found their chicken a bit too dry and small. Maybe it’s just the change in location, or my being Mexican, but I much prefer the pollo rostisado the trailers in the barrio sell…but you did make me hungry, Tracy!

    • Juan, the chicken is a little on the drier side, though to me, not too dry. The spicy flavor made up for that in my opinion.

      Now you need to take photos of your favorite chicken. Sounds good. No one sells pollo in my barrio. LOL.

  4. The food looks and sounds delicious! Que triste that I can’t find comida from El Salvador here in Mexico. :(

    • Pupusas are worth a few days drive. Road trip? … LOL. As for Pollo Campero – it’s actually from Guatemala and I believe there are locations in Mexico.

  5. Yummmmmmmmmmmmmy! Me encanta Pollo Campero! Mi Esposo, El Chapin, introduced me to Pollo Campero and I’ve loved it ever since. Every plane I’ve ever been on from Guatemala to the US is thick with the smell of Pollo Campero. It’s actually a family joke that everyone on the plane literally has a bag/box with them. I remember when they opened a new one in Northern VA and for MONTHS there was a line that literally went around the building to get in. Now that we’ve moved to the Northwest, there aren’t any Pollo Camperos around. Sad! :-( You’ve made me super hungry and it’s only 9am in the morning for me!

  6. I’ve seen them popping up across town (parts of Los Angeles County). Can you believe that I’ve never stepped foot in one? Now I’m very tempted to do so! *drools*

  7. Oh, I so wish we had one is Austin to try. I hear Peruvian chicken has taken off on the East Coast, too.

    Here en mi patria de tejas we have something else: pollos asados en estilo monterrey. There are a couple of places, El Regio and El Pollo Rico, that have franchises around town (maybe in your area, too?). I love this chicken so much that I chomp on the softer bones and eat them when I consume this chicken. Also, it comes with a salsa verde that is out of this world. It is just jalapeños, garlic, lime juice, oil, and salt emuslified together into this creamy, fiery sauce of the gods. I lurve me some pollo asado.

  8. Muy mal cervisio
    La semana posada fui con mos hijos y ordene la
    Orden white meet !! ( con pechuga)
    Puden creer qe no avian
    Y se tardaron 25 minutos para cosinar las mentadas pechugas

    El personal pésimo
    El restaurante sucio y deteriorado
    Es un mal reflejo para los restaurantes campero en jeneral
    Especial mente qe es nativo de Guatemala
    Deverian de mejorar sus servicios
    Para poder regresar a este lugar !!
    Los demás restaurantes en Md y Virginia son buenos pero lake forest Mall en gaithisburg Md
    De lo peor da asco !!

    • Hace tiempo que no fuimos al Pollo Campero en Lakeforest Mall. Qué pena que tuviste una mal experiencia pero gracias por compartir tu opinion aquí.

      • Claro ciempre es bueno compartir y expresar lo qe clientes!

        Yo soy de Guatemala y pollo campero es el pollo más rico y famoso de mi país :)
        Pero Aka en u.s.a ni el sabor no el cervicio es el mismo!!

        Aya son restaurantes de lujo
        Aka son restaurantes de comida rápida
        Ahí está la diferencia !!

      • Pero verdad que el pollo no es igual allá? Comí Pollo Campero en El Salvador y estaba rico pero me gusto más el Pollo Campero en los Estados Unidos porque tiene un sabor más picante. También en el Pollo Campero en El Salvador, solo tienen papas fritas estilo USA, pero el Pollo Campero en los EEUU tiene yuca frita, que prefiero yo. Son bien diferentes.

        Estoy de acuerdo que el servicio era mejor en El Salvador que en los EEUU. Allá uno se siente y ordena de la mesa y ellos traigan la comida a la mesa — no es comida rápida como aca.

  9. The ignorant comments about “gringos” are not necessary, Tracy. The people who give the mall negative reviews on Yelp are “colored” people as you can see in their pictures. Furthermore, you clearly have white European features judging by your picture. You look like a white Hispanic (Hispanic itself is not a race). The mall is called “ghetto” because of the many incidents that occur there (such as fights) and the crappy stores that appeal to low-income people.

    Finally, what if an Italian restaurant put something on their wall that said, say, “proud to be white”? Most people would probably call that racist, but if a minority group does that it is fine in the United States.

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