Nando’s PERi-PERi, with a location in Baltimore, is part of a South African restaurant chain famous for their peri-peri style chicken dishes. Nando’s, which was founded in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1987, now has over 1,000 locations in 35 countries.
So what is PERi-PERi? PERi-PERi, or piri piri, is a type of chili pepper known as the African Bird’s Eye Chili. Nando’s sources their peppers from Southern Africa, including Mozambique. These peppers are the key to Nando’s fire grilled PERi-PERi chicken. The peppers, along with onion, garlic, lemon, salt, vinegar, and oil, are used to make Nando’s signature sauces. Nando’s then marinates their chicken in these sauces for 24 hours to create their flavorful, spicy chicken dishes.
Interior of Nando’s PERi-PERi
Out of all the restaurants I visited on my trip to Baltimore, none had a more beautiful interior than Nando’s. For such a casual restaurant, the decor was stunning. The open dining room was large on its own but felt even bigger with such tall ceilings.
I would describe the decor as rustic but modern. Everywhere you looked was a pop of color from the walls, to the ceilings, to the chairs. This color mixed well with the wooden floors and ceilings along with thrbrick walls. And, even at night, the dining room was bright with the highlight being the large chandelier hanging over a booth near the front door.
Adding to the ambiance was upbeat music which was playing in the background. I could also see into the kitchen near the counter. The chefs seemed to be enjoying their jobs. Happier chefs make better food.
Nando’s PERi-PERi Menu
The main focus of the menu at Nando’s PERi-PERi was chicken. Most people seemed to order one of the PERi-PERi chicken options located at the top of the menu. These items included the 1/2 chicken, 1/4 chicken, legs, thighs, breasts, livers, and wings.
But there was much, much more. There were shareable platters which could feed two to six people, burgers, sandwiches, wraps, pitas, salads, and sides. While most of these options focused on chicken, there were a few vegetarian friendly options.
There was sure to be something on the menu for everyone.
If this is your first visit to Nando’s, then here are a few tips for you. First, select an item from the menu. Nando’s recommends the 1/2 chicken with a side or two. Next, choose your spice level. There were a few different options from spiciest to mildest:
- Xtra Hot: Like tackling a ferociously fiery dragon.
- Hot: Highly combustible – proceed with caution.
- Medium: Hits the spot without scalding your tonsils.
- Lemon & Herb or Mango & Lime: A mere hint of heat, but a tidal wave of flavor.
- Plain…ish: Marinated in PERi-PERi but grilled with no added spice. As mild as they go.
Once you have decided on what to order, place your order with the cashier at the counter. When your food is ready, the servers will bring your food to you at your table.
After you put your oder in, be sure to stop by the self-serve sauce bar to grab whatever you need. At the bar you will find silverware, napkins, sauces, straws, oils, salt, pepper, and ketchup.
There were three types of sauces available at the sauce bar on my visit, and I recommend you try all of them. The three sauces were the Medium PERi-PERi Sauce, Wild Herb PERi-PERi Sauce, and Lemon & Herb PERi-PERi Sauce.
The only sauce of the three I tried on my visit was the Medium PERi-PERi Sauce. This sauce was similar to the hot PERi-PERi sauce, which was the marinade used for the chicken I ordered. Looking over the ingredients of both the medium and hot PERi-PERi sauce, they were practically the same thing, minus the heat level.
While not as spicy as the hot version, this sauce was similarly smokey, salty, and tart with a great peppery taste. It almost tasted as if it had curry in it, but I don’t think curry was one of the ingredients.
For extra flavor and heat, add the PERi-PERi sauce to anything and everything you order. Pour it all over your chicken, dip your fries in it, or add it to your sandwich. The more flavor, and heat, the better.
One other thing to mention about the sauces. All of Nando’s sauces were available for sale near the front of the restaurant.
1/2 Chicken Combo with a Side
Since it had been over 10 years since I last had Nando’s in London, I decided to order their signature 1/2 Chicken ($13.69 with one side, $15.79 with two sides). If this is your first time visiting Nando’s, I recommend ordering this dish.
While it was recommended to order the medium level of heat, I settled on the hot. For my side, I chose the fries, or as they are known at Nando’s, PERi Chips. For an extra $1, I added the PERinaise (PERi-PERi Mayo).
Since Nando’s is well known for their fresh-to-order, fire grilled chicken, I was expecting nothing but the best. As my 1/2 chicken plate was placed in front of me, I could already smell all the spices, herbs, and chargrilled flavors of the chicken. This was a great start.
The first thing I noticed was how beautiful the chicken looked. With my first bite, I was rewarded with a distinct smoky flavor, the result of the chicken being grilled over an open flame. I’ve always thought that chicken tasted the best cooked this way. Just meat and fire.
Hot PERi-PERi Sauce Marinade
Complimenting the smoky flavor was a colorful marinade. The marinade, which covered every square inch of the chicken, glistened under the lights. After being marinated in hot PERi-PERi sauce for 24 hours, the chicken exploded with flavor. While it could have been spicier, the marinade was smoky and peppery. The addition of lemon and vinegar added a tangy comportment to the marinade. I have had many flame grilled chickens in my days, including many home made, but I can’t think of anything that can compare to the flavors of this PERi-PERi chicken.
What I loved about ordering the 1/2 chicken was that I got to sample a little bit of everything from the chicken. Every part of this half chicken from the breast, to the thigh, to the wing was juicy and moist. It was cooked perfectly with each piece of meat infused with a rich, smoky, spicy flavor. I felt like a caveman trying to eat every bit of the chicken off the bones.
PERi Chips with PERinaise
I was hoping the PERi Chips, or fries, tasted just as great as the chicken. But in all honesty, I knew this was impossible.
While the fries were fresh cut, I thought they could have been crispier. They weren’t soggy but were missing that essential crunchy bite. You want fries to be crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
I did enjoy the smoky and salty seasoning on the fries, which might have just been Old Bay seasoning.
Served with the fries, for an extra $1, was the PERinaise or PERi-PERi Mayo. This PERinaise was just mayonnaise mixed with the same smoky, salty seasoning as the fries. While dipping your fries in mayonnaise might sounds strange, this is something common in Europe, especially Belgium and the Netherlands. While not the healthiest of options, the sauce added a creamy richness to the simple fries.
The service on my visit was fantastic. From the moment I walked through the doors, the friendly workers behind the counter took their time to explain the menu to me and recommended some of their favorite items.
Also, I was surprised how fast my food was prepared. Only a few minutes after ordering, a worker walked over and placed my food, which was cooked perfectly, in front of me.
IF you are looking for the best flame grilled chicken in Baltimore, you come to Nando’s PERi-PERi. It was one of the best chicken dishes I have ever had. Not only was the food fantastic but so was the service and the ambiance.
If you are in the Baltimore area, or anywhere where there is a location, I highly recommend you try out Nando’s PERi-PERi for yourself.
- Chicken was cooked to perfection with a wonderful smoky aroma
- Flavorful PERi-PERi sauce
- Colorful interior of the restaurant
- Fries could have been crispier
421 W Baltimore St, Baltimore, MD 21201
GPS Coordinates: 39.289157,-76.621921