Peruvian chicken, or pollo la brasa, is the signature dish of Peru.
"Rotisserie chicken in Peru is like burgers are here," says Mario Christian Obregon, who is opening Mario's Peruvian Chicken with his brother, also named Mario Obregon. Brother Mario's middle name is Allen, which he goes by, while other brother Mario is called Chris. Chris says they were named after their father, who is also Mario. When it came time to name their restaurant, it made sense to name it Mario too.
Pollo la brasa also has a long tradition in the Obregon family, as their grandmother ran a successful polleria, or chicken restaurant, in Peru, and the brothers feel like it is something missing in the Charleston market.
"This chicken you can find in the D.C. area and New York City," says Obregon, who immigrated from Peru to D.C. in 1987. He says he has yet to find Peruvian chicken here, despite visiting Pollo Loko, the North Charleston restaurant that bills itself as Peruvian. As Raskin wrote about the restaurant, "The chicken I received was lacking all of the classic a la brasa hallmarks. Its seasoning wasn’t dominated by garlic, and there weren’t any sauces served with it. Stranger still, it was accompanied by rice, beans and shredded cabbage, rather than the traditional French fries."
At Mario's Peruvian Chicken, traditional large-cut French fries will be a signature item along with yuca, which Obregon says will be "fried on the outside and tender on the inside."
Sauces to accompany the chicken and fries will include the Peruvian classic huacatay, a bright green cream sauce made from the huacatay herb along with a fresh vinaigrette and rocoto, a medium-spicy chili pepper sauce.
But about that chicken. Obregon says their chicken will be cooked over live fire and will have a crisp, herb-encrusted skin and a moist, juicy interior. "It will spin constantly on the oven so it's crisp all over," he adds. "And every bite should have a pleasant juicy texture, spice, and smoke."
In other words, this isn't your grocery store rotisserie chicken. But consider that grocery stores sold 625 million pre-cooked chickens in 2017 alone, and the Marios seem to have a great concept that will surely appeal to the busy soccer families of Mount Pleasant.
"The accompaniment of rice, crisp potatoes fries and yuca turns a bargain meal into a gut-busting one," says Obregon, who says the fast-casual concept for rotisserie chicken will allow busy families to stop in for a healthy meal and either eat it there or take it home.
As the former district manager of the Five Guys franchises in Charleston and Columbia, Obregon understands a good concept with broad appeal.
Mario's Peruvian Chicken should open by the end of May in the Sweetgrass Shopping Center near the Isle of Palms Connector.