"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

'Covers the campus like the magnolias'
"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

Viva Chicken brings Peruvian flavors to the Triad

The indulgent and nutritious spot invites Wake Forest students to get out of their culinary comfort zones
Viva Chicken offers a plethora of delicious, accessible Peruvian cuisines for those looking to try something new. (Courtesy of Viva Chicken)

Viva Chicken has been serving up Peruvian rotisserie chicken, also known as “pollo a la brasa,” to Winston-Salem residents since the Charlotte-based chain expanded in 2019. Located on Burke Mill Road, right next door to Wake Forest University’s beloved Taco Mama, Viva Chicken lives in the realm of “healthy fast food.” 

With crispy chicken smothered in sauce nestled next to green beans and rice, this restaurant hits the sweet spot — nutritious enough to earn a place in your weekly rotation and indulgent enough to keep you coming back for more.

Like a true street food joint, Viva Chicken invites customers to order at the counter. My meal of choice is a tray with a quarter chicken of dark meat, green huacatay sauce and two sides. The green beans, covered in ginger, garlic, soy and diced red bell peppers, are an absolute must. Viva Chicken is also the only place in Winston-Salem where I’ve been able to order plantains. 

The Limeña chopped salad, topped with Peruvian corn, queso fresco aji amarillo ranch and shredded bits of their signature chicken, is a delicious option if you want to get in your greens — and junior Claire Whitworth swears by the rotisserie chicken sandwich with a side of french fries. 

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“It’s a healthier option if you are looking for a chicken sandwich,” Whitworth said. “[It’s] not fried, but the sauces bring out the flavor. And their fries are to simply to die for.”

Viva Chicken’s trio of signature juices elevates the dining experience and sets this place apart. Think lemonade with a far more intricate flavor profile. The herbal limeade’s delicate balance of herbs and lime makes it refreshing — but without being overly sweet — and I would make a special trip for the chicha morada — a deep indigo blend of purple corn, cinnamon, clove and tropical fruits. If you’re craving something sweet, Viva Chicken’s “#VivaCares” campaign promises that 50 cents of every churro sold will go to a charity partner, which is currently No Kid Hungry

Our biggest fear was — how are we gonna get people to come in and try Peruvian rotisserie chicken when they have no idea where Peru is on a map or what kind of food they have?

— Randy Garcia, Head Chef and Co-founder of Viva Chicken

You can even track the impact on their website; as of Monday, the campaign is $143,000 into their $1 million goal.

If you had offered me a purple, corn-flavored drink before college, I would have turned it down…but that is the beauty of Viva Chicken: it presents the unique flavors of Peruvian cooking in a style familiar to the American palate. The beverage branding resembles Panera’s array of charged lemonades, and ordering a fast food tray is common thanks to spots like Panda Express and Cook Out.

In an interview with Queen City Nerve, head chef and co-founder Randy Garcia admitted to fearing that Peruvian food would not appeal to American customers.

I would say the extent of Hispanic food in Charlotte [when we opened in 2013] was Mexican food,” Garcia said. 

He continued: “Our biggest fear was — how are we gonna get people to come in and try Peruvian rotisserie chicken when they have no idea where Peru is on a map or what kind of food they have?”

As a culture, we have accepted certain international cuisines as mainstream and relegated others to niche concept restaurants that generally fail to gain popularity beyond adventurous foodies. Why should all South and Central Americans have to rebrand their dishes as “Mexican” to find success in the food market? 

Viva Chicken is an accessible first step into the world of authentic Latino cuisine, one that extends beyond basic burritos and guacamole. Next time Taco Mama has a line halfway around the block, consider popping next door to pay Viva Chicken a visit. 

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