I know that as the resident Dining Grouch I’m supposed to bellyache and whine whenever some new chain restaurant rolls into Dallas. Supporting local businesses: great. Chains: sad.
But this is different. We’re getting a Nando’s!
Nando’s is an international chain of peri peri chicken restaurants with more than a thousand locations worldwide. Peri peri chicken, if you don’t know it yet, is a preparation of marinated and grilled chicken with loads of citrus, vinegar, and hot bird’s eye chile peppers. It’s the product of a cultural exchange between Brazil (which supplied the peppers), southern Africa (which supplied the grilling and now grows the peppers), and Portugal (which brought the food to the rest of the world).
If you do already know and love peri peri chicken—for to know it is to love it—then you’ve probably had it at a Nando’s in Europe or the Middle East. I think it’s fair to say that Nando’s, in the United Kingdom especially, occupies a cultural position similar to that of Whataburger in Texas: a ubiquitous, trusted chain where everyone is happy to agree to meet, even if they know there are much better options available. My Nando’s initiation came at the location across the street from my apartment (sorry, “flat”) in East London when I got a degree there in college (sorry, “at uni”).
In 2020, I wrote about the slow growth of peri peri chicken in Texas for Texas Monthly. People statewide told me that they fell in love with the dish immediately, but that not enough Texans know about it yet. Nearly all of Texas’ peri peri restaurateurs got into the business after trying a Nando’s while traveling or living abroad. But some told me they wished the dish had a higher profile in Texas, to make it easier to sell.
Earlier this year, Sal Afridi, who owned Peri Peri Original in Plano, converted his restaurant to a Nashville hot chicken spot instead (and a good one). He said that the problem was simple: everyone who knows peri peri loves it. But not a lot of Texans know about it.
“Though peri peri is growing in the U.S., I do think that it is going to take a little bit longer,” Afridi told me this spring, after reopening his business as Sal’s Nashville Hot Chicken.
Nando’s should help fix that knowledge gap, in turn not just helping itself but other restaurateurs who want to get into the peri peri market. This is a dish good enough to support healthy competition, once everyone falls in love with it.
The new Nando’s will be at that giant development in Addison where Belt Line Road meets Dallas North Tollway, the one with the Whole Foods, Gorji, and new Loro. I’m not sure which space it is, specifically, but it will have a shaded patio seating 90 in addition to an interior designed by a London-based architecture firm. The estimated opening time is late spring 2023.
If you want to get a head start on your peri peri education, we already have several options: the Port of Peri Peri franchise locations in Irving and Plano, Poblanos Piri Piri in Irving (which I didn’t like quite as much as Port when writing my 2020 article), Street’s Fine Chicken, and the only high-end version I’ve ever encountered, at Meridian, where it’s served with yucca fries. Try all of those, and you’ll be ready to judge Nando’s when it arrives.