Viva Chicken opened Oct. 30 at 3493 Burke Mill Road, becoming the second restaurant to open in the new Burke Mill Village shopping center off South Stratford Road. It’s also the first restaurant in Winston-Salem to offer Peruvian roast chicken, a concept that has become popular nationwide.
Viva Chicken is a “Peruvian Chicken Joint” chain based in Charlotte. Founders Randy Garcia and Bruno Macchiavello opened the first Viva Chicken on Elizabeth Avenue in Charlotte in 2013. They have expanded the company-owned chain to 14 units, with the help of partner Dennis Thompson, who has launched Lone Star Steakhouse and Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, among other brands.
The Winston-Salem opening comes just a few months after Viva Chicken opened its first Triad Store in March, at 4520 West Wendover Ave, Greensboro. The chain has 11 N.C. stores, and one each in South Carolina, Delaware and Utah.
The heart of the restaurant is its rotisserie roast chicken, pollo a la brasa, marinated with fresh herbs and cooked over charcoal in an oven specially built in Lima, Peru. Though Viva Chicken doesn’t disclose its recipe, polla a la brasa typically contains lime juice, garlic, oregano and cumin.
“In Peru, there’s a chicken place on every corner,” Macchiavello said. “Every one has their own recipe, their own twist on it.”
Macchiavello, 55, is a native of Peru who for years worked for Garcia’s parents as a chef at their fine-dining Italian restaurant.
Garcia, 37, grew up in the restaurant and over the years learned a lot about Peruvian cuisine from Macchiavello. Garcia also married a Peruvian. A few years ago, Garcia and Macchiavello began to hear about Peruvian chicken restaurants opening to rave reviews in big cities across the United States.
The two traveled to Washington D.C. to check out a few and were sold. “Every place we went to had lines out the door,” Garcia said.
The two started sorting through Macchiavello’s family recipes as they developed their concept.
At Viva Chicken, customers can order a whole chicken ($23.95 with three sides), half chicken ($12.95) or quarter dark or white ($8.95).
The chicken is fresh, natural, hormone-free, marinated for 24 hours and cooked whole on a rotisserie over charcoal.
Chicken comes with three sauces: mild aji amarillo (Peruvian yellow pepper), medium-heat huacatay (black Peruvian mint, cilantro and jalapeno) and spicy rocoto (red Peruvian pepper).
The 13 sides include fries, sweet potato fries, French fries and yuca. “Yuca are the traditional side in Peru,” Garcia said. Other sides include quinoa, green beans, fresh fruit and solterito (Peruvian corn salad). The latter includes edamame, corn, tomato, onion and queso fresco in a tangy dressing. “It’s made with Peruvian corn, which has huge kernels,” Macchiavello said.
The menu also includes sandwiches, soups, salads, bowls and other entrees and desserts.
The roast chicken shows up in many dishes. The Great ($8.65 with one side) is a sandwich of pulled white and dark or all white meat chicken on ciabatta or in a sun-dried tomato wrap, with lettuce, tomato, red onion and rocoto mayo. Sopa del Pollo ($5.95) is chicken and rice soup with big chunks of pulled rotisserie chicken. Arroz chaufa ($6.95), also known as Peruvian fried rice, is served vegetarian, but is also available with pulled chicken for $2.75 more.
The fried rice is one of many vegetarian items on the menu, one of several featuring soy sauce and ginger. “We have a big Asian influence in Peru,” Macchiavello said.
“Because we’re known for chicken, a lot of people don’t realize that most of our menu is vegetarian,” Garcia said. Many items are gluten-free, too.
In addition to the fried rice, vegetarian items include the naked Peruvian wrap ($8.45) with quinoa, the Inca wrap ($7.65) with rice and canary beans, the Tacu bowl ($6.95) with beans and rice, and several salads.
“The quinoa stuffed avocado ($8.45) is our most popular seller other than the chicken,” Garcia said.
Sandwiches and other items also are available with sirloin steak.
Dessert choices include alfajores ($4.75, stuffed shortbread cookies), churro filled with caramel ($2.95) and tres leches cake ($4.95).
Viva Chicken offers three signature juices ($2.75): herbal limeade with basil, rosemary and mint; maracuya, with passion fruit juice; and chicha morada, with purple corn, cinnamon, clove, pineapple, apple and lime. Soda, tea, beer and wine also are available.
Viva Chicken has counter service, but food is delivered to your table. When eating in, dishes are served on reusable bamboo plates with metal silverware.
The 3,200-square-foot restaurant has a modern industrial look with high ceilings, polished concrete floors and wooden tables. It seats about 100, including the patio.
“About 50 percent of our business is takeout,” Garcia. “And it’s split evenly between lunch and dinner.”