While I certainly love all the lunch options I have by working in Bethesda, there are times when it’s good to mix it up. One of my former co-workers now works in Silver Spring, so a few of us decided to meet at Nando’s Peri-Peri in the downtown area.
The neighborhood is like their own version of Bethesda Row, with Lebanese Taverna, Potbelly’s, Panera Bread, and Macaroni Grill as options, just to name a few. I have always heard good things about Nando’s and have wanted to try their food, but since I don’t work in downtown DC, it’s obviously not that convenient for me. I didn’t even realize that there was a Silver Spring location until today, so I was excited to try it out.
At first glance, Nando’s looks like a typical Peruvian chicken joint, however, that is not the case. The food chain’s origins are in South Africa, where the original restaurant opened based on cooking flame-grilled chicken with a Peri-Peri spice taught to Portuguese settlers long ago by Africans in Mozambique.
Their grilled chicken is marinated for 24 hours in the Peri-Peri sauce, and then basted before serving with a sauce of your choosing based on the level of spiciness. You can get anything from a whole, half, or quarter chicken with sides, or choose between various sandwiches and salads.
For those of you who don’t love chicken, they also offer veggie burgers, a steak sandwich, and a portabella sandwich. You can also order any salad without the chicken.
I decided to get the butternut squash and couscous salad, with red onion, olives, grilled corn, and the famous chicken on a bed of greens. I choose the mild lemon and herb sauce, and then topped the salad with additional sauces at the table.
One unique feature to Nando’s is the sauces, which come in tall bottles with metal spouts that can be brought to your table. You can add as much spice and flavor to your dishes as you like. I mixed in some medium spicy sauce, garlic, and wild mushroom, and they all added a nice flavor to the salad.
While Nando’s is a fast casual chain, the staff was very friendly and greeted us at the door with menus and led us to a table. We ordered at the counter and the process seemed very smooth, until two of us got our order while our friend had to wait an additional 10 minutes for hers.
It was odd, since she ordered the same exact thing as my other friend – a grilled chicken wrap with yogurt sauce and two sides. When it finally arrived, the waiter explained that the macho peas side takes longer to prepare. In the end it was fine, but it is never fun to wait for someone’s dish while we all awkwardly look towards the kitchen.
I’m glad we discovered the Silver Spring location of Nando’s, and we will definitely be back soon. It’s a nice option for an easy meal that is also healthy and very satisfying.
Nando’s Peri-Peri is located at 924 Ellsworth Drive in downtown Silver Spring.
The store plans on opening two more locations in Bethesda and Gaithersburg, according to their website.