It seems like I've driven by Pollo Tropical on Route 1 a million times, though realistically it's more like once every month or so for the past three or four years, or however long it has been open. The temptation of drive-thru yuca fries is always strong, but not enough to stop. My interest in American chain restaurants is more focused on sit-downs than fast food, though as it turns out Pollo Tropical is an intebetweenie fast casual, i.e. order at the counter with food brought to the table and bussed for you.
The idea was just to grab a snack after Costco to tide myself and a friend until dinner at Bahama Breeze. But the small order of yuca fries, more satisfyingly crispy and starchy than French fries, and fun to eat with the gazillion sauces from the condiment bar (the hot and guava bbq sauces were keepers) ended up being a gateway to larger things.
Next thing I knew I was ordering a small TropiChop, intending to only get roughage and protein, low-carbing to balance the yuca. But somehow I ended up with black beans and brown rice in addition to my shredded lettuce and roast pork. It’s hard to say no when the cashier rattles off your options and you have no idea what you’re doing. I would totally order one of these for lunch if Pollo Tropical existed in lower Manhattan. It’s comparable to Chipotle’s burrito bowl, but cheaper and less caloric.
And for those in the market for a chain restaurant Valentine’s and can’t hack the $10,000 Pizza Hut promotion (with high potential for food-embedded engagement rings) or have already done the White Castle event (where you could propose with a much cheaper Chicken Ring) you can have two TropiChops, two fountain drinks, and two orders of yuca sticks for $9.99. Romantic, no? I got an urge for a Valentine’s at Chili’s after its mention on 30 Rock, but the closest one is in subway-free Glendale and we don’t generally use the car on weeknights.
Want me to quash that loving feeling? Well, I ended up barfing up my Pollo Tropical food in a Trader Joe’s bathroom shortly, afterward. Not because it was foul, certainly, but because I have this inexplicable malady where about 50% of the time that I go to New Jersey (but nowhere else including Quebec City, a ten-hour-drive and not-so-short jaunts to Baltimore and Philadelphia) I get extreme nausea, sweating and dizziness, motion sickness.
Pollo Tropical's decor incorporates its yellow bird in shades mascot into works of art. Mona Lisa, Van Gogh, Warhol and so on.
I particularly liked the Hopper. But the wall outside of the Trader Joe’s bathroom (in Westfield, at least) had their logo done in a colorful Warholian multiples too. Is this a thing? I wasn’t feeling up to snapping a photo.
Pollo Tropical * 77 US Rt. 1, Metuchen, NJ