It’s very rare that I get to go back to Maryland during football season, but I found a really cheap flight in late October so I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately it didn’t coincide with a Maryland home football game, which is the perfect opportunity to see lots of friends. Thankfully I was still able to get together with some friends.
College Park has changed so much since I was in school at Maryland 20+ years ago. Every time I go back I drive through campus and around town, just to see what’s new. Ratsie’s was a College Park institution for 30 years, and had a prime location right on the corner of Route 1. I don’t think we ever went there during the day, but it sure had great late-night pizza. It finally closed down this spring, and Nando’s Peri Peri took over. When I was in Maryland in July, we drove by and the entire building was gutted.
Nando’s was open when I returned for this trip, so I knew we had to try it out. I was amazed, as the space has been completely and totally transformed.
Nando’s seems a lot larger than Ratsie’s was, but I think it’s just the new design. Nando’s has bold colors, wood ceilings and tables, a combination of booth and table seating, and a large open kitchen in the back. The one negative was the music was much too loud.
Nando’s originated in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1987. Since then, it has grown tremendously. In the US, there are locations in Maryland, DC, Virginia and Illinois. Across the ocean are locations in Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa and the UK.
We arrived after 1PM, and Nando’s was still really crowded. As guests enter, the hostess immediately asks if they have been there before; if not, she explains the restaurant’s unique process. You sit at a table and review the menu; then get up, to wait in line and order. That seems weird and inefficient to me. I guess if you are familiar with the menu you can order first and then sit.
Nando’s menu is Portugese inspired, featuring chicken, sandwiches, wraps, salads, and sides. All of the sides are a la carte, and sandwiches, wraps and pitas include one side. Nando’s also serves beer, wine and sangria. The chicken is the most popular thing on the menu. The chicken marinates overnight and is grilled to order; as it cooks, it is basted with your choice of Peri Peri sauce, ranging from plain-ish to extra hot.
We started with the hummus with Peri Peri drizzle
The hummus was excellent, and the pita is served warm. What a fabulous combination. The peri peri drizzle had a serious kick, and I love the mini bottle. My dad doesn’t do spicy, but he was able to eat it when mixed with the hummus.
My mom got the roasted veggie wrap
I’m not a fan of eggplant, but the wrap was delicious, and has a great mix of flavors. The wraps are substantial, giving her enough for leftovers.
My dad got the portobello mushroom and halloumi wrap
What is halloumi you ask? It’s a cheese, made from a mix of goat and sheep milk. I didn’t try any of his wrap, but he said it was really good.
Of course, I had to get chicken. The chicken options are dark or white meat quarter, half a chicken, chicken breast, chicken livers, or wings. I went simple, with a 1/4 dark meat, with the medium sauce. There are bottles of all the sauces at the condiment station, so I picked up both the garlic and hot to taste test. I had a really hard time deciding what to get on the side. I normally jump straight to fries when available, but I wanted to branch out with something new. The cashier raved about the macho peas, so I decided to go with that instead.
The chicken is fantastic, so incredibly tender and juicy. I tasted both of the sauces, and the garlic is a clear favorite. Not a powerful garlic taste, but instead just a wonderful depth of flavor. Although the chicken is cooked in sauce, I didn’t let that stop me from eating every bite with the garlic sauce. The peas are disappointing. After the raves from the cashier I had such high expectations, but they are bland. Peri peri drizzle and the garlic sauce makes a huge difference in flavor.
Recently I’ve seen the peri peri sauce in the grocery store, in the condiment section. I haven’t bought any yet, but I definitely will do that.
Will I go back to Nando’s? Yes, I will. Of course I have to get chicken, but I’d like to try other sides and appetizers.