ethnic

Pio Pio serves up the best rotisserie chicken in Charlotte

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Pio Pio on East Boulevard

Pio Pio on East Boulevard

I eat at Pio Pio at least once a week. For my Colombian husband, it’s a little slice of home – they serve authentic Colombian and Peruvian food in a great atmosphere. The restaurant is tucked into the back corner of the same East Boulevard shopping center that houses Brixx Pizza and Outback Steakhouse. Pio Pio is part of a small chain – there are several locations around New York City as well.

Pio Pio’s rotisserie chicken is the best I’ve found in Charlotte – or really anywhere, for that matter. The skin is perfectly seasoned and slightly crisp and the meat is always juicy and flavorful. The sides and appetizers are always good, from the arepas (round, white cornmeal cakes) to the chorizo to the sweet plantains and my favorite, empanadas (yellow corn pockets stuffed with seasoned meat and potatoes).

If you’re very hungry and aren’t in the mood for chicken, get the Montañero, a traditional platter that includes beef, rice, avocado, chorizo, an arepa, a fried egg, plantains and red beans. It’s one of my favorites. The tilapia is also great, as are the fried pork chops and the avocado salad. You really can’t go wrong. The service is excellent and it makes a really good and inexpensive place for take-out if you live in the area. It would cost more to cook the same meal at home. So don’t bother – go to Pio Pio. You’ll love it!

Chima Brazilian Steakhouse

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Chima, the Brazilian steakhouse on South Tryon Street in Uptown, extended its restaurant week special offer for an additional week, so I had dinner there on Thursday night. It was my second visit and it was quite good. I suspected that they might hold back on their best meats because of the lower restaurant week price, but both of my favorites, the top sirloin (their house special) and the leg of lamb, as well as filet mignon and other good cuts were available in abundance. I’ve been to Brazilian churrascarias in several cities, and while Chima may not be my all-time favorite, it is definitely high on my list – and much better than Brazas, the other option here in town.

Chima Brazilian Steakhouse

Chima Brazilian Steakhouse (Photo Credit Miami Herald)

If you’ve never been to one, a waiter comes to your table and takes your drink order, and you can help yourself to a large salad bar in the center of the room with everything from cold cuts to calamari salad. At your table, a small card that says something to the effect of “yes please” on one side and “no thanks” on the other is your signal to the traditionally-dressed gauchos circulating with skewers of meat that you want to be served. They’ll swarm around the table offering bacon-wrapped chicken, chorizo, pork loin and many different cuts of beef.

The downside to these places is that the pace of the meal feels kind of frenzied; it wouldn’t make a good spot for a business meeting. Unless everyone at the table flips their card to “no thanks”, your conversation is constantly interrupted by gauchos offering more meat.

If you are a beef-lover like I am, the trick is to reject things like pork and chicken, which can tend to be dry and tasteless. Accept only the best cuts of beef because you’ll fill up fast. I load everything up with lots of chimichurri sauce. Chima’s salad bar is average compared to other churrascarias I’ve visited, but the beef is delicious, and that’s the most important part.