Laura and I once again had to divide and conquer for the evening, so I was on my own for dinner. I decided to try the Tropical Chicken Grill nearby on Pelham Road. We had tried to eat hear twice before, but the first time it was too crowded, and the second time it was closed for Labor Day. The third time was the charm.
The Tropical Chicken Grill first opened back in March in the former Joy of Tokyo location. Lazaro and Shadid Montato were exploring ideas for a possible chain of restaurants, and decided to try a healthier alternative to fried food with this venture. This restaurant was opened as a test bed for that concept.
The place is clean and spartan, almost to the point of being stark. Yellow and red are used through, possibly reminiscent of bright tropical colors (or, perhaps, to stimulate hunger.) The restaurant gives the impression of a basic fast food place. The decor doesn’t lead one to want to linger over dinner.
There were three other groups dining when I arrived. A couple more take-out orders came through while I was there. There wasn’t much traffic, and it looked like they could use more people coming through.
Cuban cuisine is the order of the day. A large portion of the menu is devoted to their “chop” dishes. This is typically some type of grilled meat chopped and served with rice and beans. Despite the restaurant’s name, pork and beef are available on the menu, but chicken dishes make up the majority of the offerings. Different sauces and sides make accompany each chop dish. There are regular and large sized portions for each plate, and these run from $5 to about $9.
There are also several wraps, hovering around the $5 mark, and two salad offerings – $5 without chicken and $7 with. You can also get varying amounts of grilled chicken with different sides All of the individual meals come in under $10.
Shadid Montato asked if this was my first visit. When I said yes, she started doling out samples. I got a small bowl of their chicken fricassee served over rice and black beans with peppers and olives. The flavors were fantastic – not too spicy, but lively. The beans and rice were what really made the dish. Before I knew it, she had refilled the bowl with the beef brisket variation for me to try. Both of these dishes were not on the menu. Apparently the Lazaro likes to try new dishes for a week or so, and then decide whether or not he’s going to add them.
By this time I’d had nearly a full meal, and I hadn’t ordered the first bit of food. What I should have done was try one of the chop dishes so I could taste something else. However, I decided to go with the beef brisket since it was so good. It was almost more of a heavy stew.
This is fast food, and sit-down service isn’t available. Even so, one of the owners themselves greeted me and worked the counter. She was knowledgeable and gave me samples as described above. The food itself came out quickly, as this dish was already prepared. All she really had to do was plate it.
Tropical Chicken Grill advertises itself as a healthy alternative to fast food. The food is very rich, and that claim remains to be seen. However, it’s quite tasty and very reasonably priced. I think it’s an excellent culinary addition to our neighborhood.