938 W. Randolph St., West Loop, 312-488-3062; 670 W. Diversey Pkwy., Lincoln Park, 773-634-7153
What’s this new craze, peri-peri chicken? At Nando’s, think poultry that’s been marinated in a sauce spiked with crushed peri-peri chilis, garlic, onions, lemon juice and peel, salt, and vegetable oil and then flame-grilled to juicy goodness. White meat, dark meat; quarter, half, or whole; by the platter. (At $12.45, including one side, the half is a steal.) If you prefer a sandwich, the Nandocas’ Choice layers a moist whole breast with sweet, crunchy slaw on garlicky toast ($11.75).
Each bird delivers subtle heat, but you get to customize it further with one of six sauces: from mild, tangy lemon and herb up to extra hot. Test your tolerance for the spiciest sauce on the wings ($5.95 for six), washed down with a glass of refreshing fruit-flecked sangría ($5.75). —Maggie Hennessy
Fogo’s Peri Peri
4915 Oakton St., Skokie. 847-675-5000. Peri-peri.
This 32-seat joint with red leatherette chairs and Formica four-tops in downtown Skokie has fast-casual written all over it. Use your time in line to study the “Easy as 1, 2, 3” menu because between the chicken pieces, flavors, sauces, special dips, and spice levels, it’s not quite that easy. It is fun, though. Let your friendly counter guy help you. He might suggest you combo up, which nets you cassava fries, a fountain drink, and a dip for an upcharge of $2.99. Heck, why not? Cuts down on decisions, and it will still clock in around $10 apiece for a ton of food.
If you want to know what 24-hour-marinated flame-grilled chicken tastes like, the hot sauce or hotter sauce would be a mistake. Lemon-herb, however, lets the juicy chicken shine. The house slaw provides good crunchy contrast.
You might wonder, however, how the plasticware and Styrofoam cups fit into the Save the Planet message on the wall. –Penny Pollack
The Langham, 330 N. Wabash Ave., River North. 312-923-7705. Contemporary.
You have to be in the know to find the dish formerly known as “piri-piri chicken” on the menu at upscale-chic Travelle—these days, it hides under the moniker of “spicy half chicken.” But don’t let the name deceive you. You’re still getting the same hunks of charred meat resting delicately on seasonal vegetables, just as Chicago recorded it being made earlier this year. And said meat is still perfectly fork-tender, with a gentle hit of fire that’s quickly cooled by a yogurt sauce drizzled over the top. It just goes by a different title these days. Probably time to reintroduce yourself. –Carrie Schedler
2957 W. Diversey Ave., Logan Square. 773-661-9170. Eclectic.
Over at Logan Square’s little Macanese superstar, you can sample the char-grilled half-bird two ways: “Africana,” with tomato, peanut, and coconut, and the lunchtime-only “Fatracha” peri-peri. The latter comes bathed in housemade Thai-style sriracha sauce, which combines, among other things, the feisty flavors of peri-peri chiles, vinegar, and garlic with cane sugar and lemon juice. Together with the chicken’s blackened to a crisp (in a good way) skin, it’s exactly the tastebud overload (again, in a good way) you expect from Fat Rice. –Carly Boers