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.
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.