Great cultures BBQ alike
Nando's Peri-Peri pecks at first Austin location
Austin has fried chicken pretty much covered: on a sandwich, for home cooks, or even without any actual chicken in it at all. The city loves barbecue chicken, too, but until now there's been a gap in the market.
Peri peri chicken — a South African barbecue favorite by way of Portuguese immigrants — is not the Austin staple it could be, given the city's predilection for a well-dressed piece of poultry. Nando's Peri-Peri (stylized Nando's PERi-PERi) is coming to change that.
The South African chain, born in Johannesburg and obsessively propagated in London, has finally flown the coop for Austin, arriving in the Mueller neighborhood in "early 2024," according to a release. This location, the first in town, will introduce many Texans to the spicy, saucy dish.
This flame-grilled chicken is smothered in spicy sauces that some Austinites may actually find quite agreeable if they're used to Mexican and Nashville heat, but they can turn the dial up if they want more. (Again, it's super popular in London; what did you expect?) It's served in pieces (wings, quarters, etc.), in wraps, or in sandwiches, with sides like fries, Portuguese rice, or peas.
There are two big differences in how Texans would prepare their barbecue chicken versus how the South African chain does it: First, Nando's chicken is marinated for 24 hours. Second, and more important, is the peri peri itself, an African chile. The ingredients are sourced from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and South Africa, where the company says it supports farmers with a fair price and "upfront access to funds, equipment and seedlings."
This, especially, makes the company believe that Nando's is meant for Austin. It's not just the style, but the substance.
“Austin is on the world’s radar, and we’re so excited to bring our concept to this vibrant city, which is so well-aligned with Nando’s culture and commitment to quality and community,” said Nando's CEO John Fisher. “We look forward to being part of Austin’s dynamic culinary landscape.”
Houston is slightly ahead of the curve, with a newly opened Nando's location, and the chain is also on its way to Dallas and Katy. Some in Austin may scoff at neighbors who haven't been using the sauces since they became available via local retailers in 2014 (check Whole Foods Market, H-E-B, and Walmart), but this is a whole new ex-peri-ence.
Not that your apartment kitchen won't do the trick, but these Texas locations were designed by Austin's Michael Hsu Office of Architecture, known for restaurants like Uchi, Loro, P. Terry's, and more. The fast-casual restaurants will feature contemporary art from South Africa, which a press release names (across locations) as the largest in the world.
The 2,500-square-foot restaurant will be under construction soon on the ground floor of the Origin Hotel (1825 McBee St.) — fitting for such an international restaurant.
More information about Nando's Peri-Peri is available at nandosperiperi.com.