Why Is Pollo Campero Better in Central America? An Investigation

Lead Photo: Art by Alan López for Remezcla
Art by Alan López for Remezcla
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For many Central Americans, Pollo Campero is life. The Gutierrez family launched the business back in 1971 in Guatemala, eventually expanding to other parts of Latin America (including Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Ecuador) and the United States. In 2002, Pollo Campero came to the Los Angeles, where as the site states, people circled the restaurant to get their hands on delicious fried chicken and frijoles negros.

In the last few years, the restaurant chain has grown significantly in the US. In 2016, sales rose 20.3 percent to $110.6 million. And while the company is looking to compete with other chicken-focused franchises in the US, there are some who won’t be stepping into the US versions of the establishment as its presence increases.

As many have stated on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms, Pollo Campero is far superior in Central America. People are so serious about bringing their friends and families meals from the chain when they visit the isthmus that countries like El Salvador have even streamlined the process. The Aeropuerto Internacional Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero has a Pollo Campero so people can board the plane with as much fried chicken goodness as they can carry. It’s not rare to see an airplane full of people carrying the orange boxes.

We wanted to learn a little more about why Pollo Campero Central America tops the restaurants in the US, so we reached out to a few people who have tried the establishment in the US and Central America. Here’s what they had to say.

Editor’s Note: The following responses have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. 

“My favorite thing from the menu is just the regular fried chicken (my favorite is the chicken breast!) It’s pretty much what everyone tends to get. We accompany it with cole slaw. It’s delicious!

“The first time I had Pollo Campero was probably the first time I went to El Salvador when I was 2 years old. However, the more significant times I remember first trying it were when I was about 4 to 5 years old. My relatives would never fail to bring that orange chicken box when they would visit us here in the states! We still get excited when they bring us chicken every time they visit. It’s super common to see Central Americans with Pollo Campero at the airport.

I remember when they first opened Pollo Campero in LA. The lines were crazy long. A lot of fellow Central Americans were looking forward to getting the chicken they missed dearly. However, when me and my family tried it here in California, we agreed that it just wasn’t the same. The flavor feels as though something is missing. It’s hard to give specifics as to what is missing, but it just doesn’t have that same flavor and feeling as when we would get it right from El Salvador. Not that it’s awful here in any way, but it is definitely tastier when brought from abroad. Perhaps some of the ingredients are different?” -Lourdes Fernandez

“I first tried it five years ago. I’ve gone to Pollo Campero two or three times in the US. It tastes more authentic in El Salvador. It’s not just for the food. It’s more the entire experience of being there, along with the customer service. It’s a different experience from the US. Here in the US, it’s bad quality, and it’s like going to McDonald’s, nothing special about it.” -Evelin Bonilla

“I remember having pollo campero with my aunt when I was in elementary school. I remember being in 3rd grade. This was in Langley Park, Maryland. Pollo Campero is not as good here as it is in El Salvador. Since Pollo Campero started in Central America, it just won’t be the same in the states. The portions here are also very small and expensive.

The best Pollo Campero location is the one in the Salvadoran Airport (SAL). Simply because I love how Pollo Campero is basically another carry-on. The smell on the plane is also amazing. Almost all abuelas have that bag with the saying “Compartiendo el sabor, con mi familia, con todo el mundo.” Something about that shop really hits home because those bags of pollo remind me of my grandma coming home around midnight with the chicken that is best cold. I also feel like a king when I am walking with my paper bag of Pollo Campero. It’s like I have so much clout for that.

Their traditional fried chicken is the best. Also, Pollo Campero is the first thing that comes to mind when I have a family member ask me what I want from El Salvador. I also believe that Avianca should serve Pollo Campero on their flights, especially with their prices.” -Brandon Rodriguez

“The first time I had Pollo Campero was in DC over 10 yrs ago. I think Pollo Campero is inferior in the US because it’s not as fresh as it is in Central America. The taste is also not as flavorful.” -Rachel Zelaya