Ahh Latin American cuisine! Given the diversity of this category, it’s sometimes hard to pin down but in my head I’m usually thinking of empanadas, beans, rice and some sort of protein. And I’ve had a chance to visit Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica and some of the islands and sampled their cuisine. Out in Raleigh you’ll find the second location for Tropical Picken Chicken and it bills itself as Puerto Rican and Latin American cuisine. I drive through this area all the time (Trader Joe’s is near by) but finally got to stop in recently for lunch…
While the original Tropical Picken Chicken is pretty small and tight, the newer sister location off Wake Forest Road has some room to stretch out in. It’s a large, brightly colored space with plenty of red, blue and yellow art covering the walls and pendant lamps hanging overhead. Latino dance music is thumping overhead and it all feels comfortable and casual. I grab a laminated menu trying to figure out what I want to eat. You’ve got classics like tostones, empanadas, mofongo, arroz con pollo and more. The Tropical Picken Chicken menu calls itself out more specifically as Puerto Rican, Dominican and Cuban food so the menu covers a variety of food types from the Caribbean and islands. I order up my lunch at the counter, grab a number and a seat in the large dining room.
The crowd here at Tropical Picken chicken is digging into their food so I’m a bit excited. My empanada is brought to my table and it’s a single, large pastry with a side of spicy sauce which I’m assuming is aji (green chili) sauce. It’s spinach and cheese, loaded and plump with both. Steamy, hot with a nice, slightly doughy crust, I really enjoy Tropical Picken Chicken’s version. They do an empanada lunch special with two of these bad-boys which should fill you up nicely. Next up is a lunch special of chicarron de pollo or fried chicken chunks in my world! I’ve got a plate of garlicky, well-browned bone on chicken on the plate. It’s paired up with a soft, spicy yellow rice and a piece of grilled toast, yum! And the chicken is very tasty and tender with a good crisp crust. Enjoyed the rice which is tinged with a slightly different spice profile than what I’m used to but tasty stuff. Overall the chicarron de pollo is satisfying and just works nicely for me, although not all of you will want to work through the bones.
I head out of Tropical Picken Chicken and the place is starting to fill up nicely, it seems like a popular lunch destination for area Latinos. And I think I know why because Tropical Picken Chicken, whether you’re talking about the Wake Forest or Raleigh location, is all about Latin American or island comfort food. There’s nothing fancy about the food here but it’s substantial, tasty and down to earth. And a great choice if you’re looking for something different out on Wake Forest Road.