Pollos A La Brasa Fiesta
3901 Williams Blvd
Kenner, LA 70065
Napoleon's Rating - ***/*****
It wasn't that long ago that your choices for Latin American flavor in the New Orleans area fell somewhere between Mexican burritos and Cuban sandwiches. But as the Hispanic population has grown and diversified, the eating options have increased too. We've even seen a few highly-specialized restaurants emerge to fill niche roles. Pollos a la Brasa is one of them, and this spare but fascinating Kenner restaurant has become a destination for Latin-style barbecue and rotisserie chicken.
The restaurant has a freshly-renovated and brightly-painted dining room. The centerpiece is the brick-lined rotisserie oven, where you can see chickens turning away on the spit over open flame.
Dining here is in many ways like eating at a rustic barbecue stand, albeit one with a Spanish accent. The waitresses are comfortably bilingual and the patrons range from businessmen engrossed in cell phone calls to laborers sucking down beer in the afternoon.
This place isn't set up for appetizers per se, but it does serve a few sides worth trying out. The best is the fried yucca, which takes the place of French fries. These fried logs are thicker, denser and chewier, but have a nice, crisp edge and go well with the tart, garlicky chimichurri dipping sauce. The soupy, South American-style red beans are good as well.
There are only three real choices here for main items - chicken, ribs or sausage -- but that doesn't mean the decision will be easy. The chicken has a bronzed skin and smoky flavor. It's evenly cooked and juicy, and has light flavors of paprika and lime. The ribs are more akin to Vietnamese or Korean styles than American barbecue - which is to say, sliced thin and against the bone. But there's no arguing with the flavor, nor the pleasantly chewy, lightly-charred texture. The great sandwich here is a rendition of choripan, a sausage sandwich that is all the rage in Argentina. The sausage tastes much like an Italian link and it's busted open on the grill so that the interior gets crisp. It's stuffed into crusty bread with cheese, cucumbers, red onions and more chimichurri, a zesty sauce of garlic, parsley and cilantro. In particular I recommend the "super combo" for a generous taste of each meat, plus yucca, beans and salad.
Flan or tres leches are as classic a finale at a place like this as bread pudding would be at a New Orleans neighborhood joint. These are decent renditions, though I wouldn't seek this place out for its desserts.
The large, glass-fronted cooler beside the video poker machines is packed with many different kinds of soda and beer from Latin American brands. The bar has a variety of tequila served as shots, but don't go looking for a frozen margarita or anything fancy like that. The horchata and the tamarindo are refreshing, nonalcoholic choices.
This place is a bargain. You can dig into a plate of ribs for $10 or share a whole rotisserie chicken for $12. Sandwiches are $7.50 and most sides are $2.
Pollos a la Brasas is a different sort of restaurant for the New Orleans area, and a great addition. It's very casual but professionally run, and the flavors are unique. If you love barbecue you should feel right at home in this den of Latin-flavored meats.