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Latino Chicken War Shaping Up In Chicago

By vouchey in Food on Jul 29, 2005 2:11PM

We Americans spend a lot of time crowing about our cultural exports. But this week the global chicken comes home to roost in Chicago. It comes in the form of Guatemalan fried chicken phenom Pollo Campero (annoying music alert!). Then, in a few months it cackles again with the arrival of Mexican broiled chicken behemoth, Pollo Loco.

Pollo Campero logoThe two chicken franchises, well known and beloved by our neighbors South Of The Border, and already well established in the American Southwest, are beginning their eastward expansion, starting with the heavily Latino Chicago area. Pollo Campero opens their first store this weekend in Brickyard Mall, with two more on the way in Little Village and on south Cicero Avenue. Pollo Loco plans to open this fall on Milwaukee Avenue, just north of Logan Square.

Pollo Loco logoFor those of us raised on KFC, Popeyes and Hardees chicken, Campero and Loco chicken can be a shock to the tastebuds. Both are heavily marinaded in spices, and Campero chicken is considerably crispier than KFC. Loco chicken is unlike any chain food you may know. There are broiled chicken places like it, but mostly like stuff you'd find in a neighborhood grocery (not Jewel!).

Neither chain is coming to Chicago without local support. Campero has been franchised to open 50 stores in the US by Levy Family Partners, a branch of Chicago-based Levy Restaurants. And Loco has a deal with Chicago-based, Gold Coast Dog-founder Fortis Restaurants to develop ten stores in the Chicago-area in the next couple of years. Campero has 20 stores in the US and 200 in Latin America and Loco has 322 stores in the US.